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The American family

The American family: How a ‘new normal’ is reshaping religion, work, and today’s economy

Thursday, October 10, 2013 – 12:00pm

Why have we seen such large changes in American family structure in the last half-century, and what are the consequences for our children and economy? On October 10th at AEI, three scholars presented their latest research on these important questions.

W. Bradford Wilcox of the National Marriage Project and AEI described a growing crisis among American men who have lost their connections with core American institutions, including the workplace, religious congregations, and marriage. These socializing institutions are most consequential for the most vulnerable members of society, yet low-income populations have been hit hardest by family breakdown.

Mary Eberstadt of the Ethics and Public Policy Center explained that robust religious engagement and family life often go hand-in-hand. As more US couples have chosen to cohabit, divorce, or never marry, religious participation has decreased.

Former AEI fellow Nick Schulz acknowledged that talking about a breakdown in family structures can be uncomfortable, yet its harmful impact on children — and the economy — requires us to look more squarely at the facts. As Schulz states in his recent AEI book, “Home Economics,” it is impossible to understand income inequality in the United States without taking into account changes in family structure. These scholars launched a crucial discussion about some of the connections between healthy families and a healthy economy.