Belonging and Rejection Report
Special Report - November 21, 2011
Less than half of American teenagers today are growing up in families headed by both biological parents who are married to one another, according to a new report from the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) at the Family Research Council. The “Second Annual Index of Belonging and Rejection,” which was released on November 17, measures the proportion of teenagers growing up in intact families at the national and state levels. The latest findings from the “Index” are based on data from the 2009 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), which collects information on family relationships, parental marital status, and relationships between parents and children.
According to the report, the national index of belonging (i.e., the percentage of teenagers who have grown up with both biological, married parents) was 45.8 percent in 2009, while the national index of rejection (i.e., the percentage of teenagers growing up in broken families, where the parents have “rejected” one another) was 54.2 percent. The report notes that the index of belonging is highest in the Northeast and lowest in the South. “States in which teenagers are least likely to have grown up with both parents are those with substantial numbers of adults who have not attained a high school diploma, are from minority racial or ethnic backgrounds, and have experienced high unemployment,” the report explains. “These states are all in the South and West regions of the country.” While Minnesota (57 percent) and Utah (56.5 percent) have the highest percentage of teenagers growing up with married parents, the bottom 10 states in the nation are all in the South, with Mississippi having the lowest percentage at 34 percent. Although North Carolina is not in the bottom 10, it is ranked 38th in the nation, with an index of belonging of 41.4 percent.
The MARRI report notes that family belonging is “positively and significantly associated” with educational success. “States with high scores on the Index of Family Belonging have higher rates of high school graduation, as well as higher average scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress,” according to the report. For example, Minnesota (the number one ranked state in the Index) has a high school graduation rate of 86 percent and a NAEP score of 270, compared to North Carolina, which has a high school graduation rate of 72.8 percent and an average NAEP score of 260.
Child poverty and unwed births to teen mothers are also “significantly, inversely related” to family belonging, according to the report. For example, the percentage of child poverty in Minnesota is 14 percent, and the percentage of births to unwed teens is 6.4 percent, compared to 23 percent of children living in poverty in North Carolina, and 10.3 percent of births occurring to unmarried teenage mothers.
“Given the national level of rejection between parents (54.2 percent), there is no way for the majority of the nation's children to avoid the weakening effects of family breakdown,” a MARRI summary of the report warns. “It is unavoidable that the major institutions of future families, church, school, the marketplace, and government will be similarly weakened as these children gradually take their place within these institutions. As a society we cannot but become weaker... With out of wedlock birthrates now above 40 percent, declining marriage rates, and very high divorce rates, it seems safe to predict that the Index of Rejection will continue to mount.”
Intact Families Disappear For Teens - December 16, 2010
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