THE US INDEX OF BELONGING AND REJECTION: AMERICA'S FAMILY CULTURE HAS BECOME A CULTURE OF REJECTION
The Index of Belonging and Rejection is an instant read on America's social health. It measures the proportion of American children who reach age 17 in an intact, married family. The Index uses data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey.
Only 45% of American children reach 17 years of age belonging in an intact family, with both their birth mother and biological father legally married to one another since before or around the time of the child's birth.
55% of American children, by the time they reach 17 years of age, live in families in which their biological parents have rejected each other, in single-parent families, stepfamilies, or with adoptive or foster parents.
Parental belonging and rejection vary among ethnic groups, regions, and states. Belonging is strongest among Asian-Americans and in the Northeast, and the lowest among African-Americans and in the South.
62% of Asian-American children (the highest percentage, among all ethnic groups) reach age 17 in an intact family, but only 17% of African-American children do so.
The majority of families remain intact in 11 states, such as Utah (with the highest index of belonging, 59%), New Hampshire (58%), Minnesota (57%), and Nebraska (55%).
Among the four regions of the US (the South, the West, the Midwest, and the Northeast), the Northeast has the highest belonging index (50.4%). The South has the lowest belonging index (41%). Fewer than 40% of children reach 17 in intact families in the majority of southern states.
Family belonging is highest for whites in the Northeast (61%); among blacks, belonging is greatest in the West (22%); and belonging is greatest among Hispanics in the Midwest (43%) and the South (43%).
The nation's 26 most populous cities vary widely in their indices of belonging, from 71% in Nassau County (New York) to 22% in Bronx County (New York).
The current incidence of divorce and childbearing outside marriage has made growing up in a stable, two-parent family now an exception, rather than the rule. Race and ethnicity, as well as parent age, education, employment, and income, are strongly linked to the probability that a child will reach 17 with his or her family intact.
The black family faces a particularly desperate situation. Sociologist (and, later, United States senator) Daniel Patrick Moynihan predicted forty years ago that rates of abandonment, divorce, and out-of-wedlock birth would skyrocket among African-Americans if nothing was done about the rate of out-of-wedlock births in the black family. Moynihan's concerns have been proven justified.
Children who grow up in intact families are better off than those who grow up in any other family structure, whether well-being is gauged by educational, economic, health, social development, or family relationship outcomes. Rejection brings with it two injustices. First, children are deprived of a stable family, their birthright. Second, the rest of the nation must shoulder more of the burden of raising and caring for these children whose parents have walked away from the task.
The national rate of rejection belies deep gender dysfunction in the United States. The way out of this weakness is to strengthen the relational capacities and change the sexual patterns of adolescents and young adults. The resource that will assist most in this is the renewed practice of regular religious worship coupled with renewed attention to the restoration of chastity among youth, the essential precursor to stable marriage. These will begin the restoration of a culture of belonging.