The Hidden Power of “Thank You” (Loren Marks, David Dollahite, Joe Chelladurai, Laura McKeighen, March 8, 2024, Public Square)

Our recent research as social scientists indicates that for many, “Gratitude is a divine emotion.” Although we did not ask directly about gratitude, many participants spontaneously discussed gratitude in their spiritual lives and their relationships.

Gratitude, however, is far more than an emotion. Over the past twenty-three years, our in-depth interviews with about 200 exemplary, marriage-based families for the American Families of Faith National Research Project have indicated that gratitude seems to frequently serve as a “gateway virtue,” a proverbial on-ramp to a freeway of other positive attributes and relational processes. In short, gratitude seems to be a catalyst for other “goods or values.”


The Awfulness of Elite Hypocrisy on Marriage (Brad Wilcox, FEBRUARY 13, 2024, The Atlantic)

“Is it morally wrong to have a baby outside of marriage?”

“No” is the answer I received from about two-thirds of my sociology-of-family class at the University of Virginia last spring, when I put that question to them in an anonymous online poll. The class of approximately 200 students was diverse geographically, racially, and ethnically. But on questions like this one—asking whether society should promote or value one type of family structure over another—the students I teach at UVA generally say it shouldn’t.

Yet when I asked these same students—who are almost all unmarried—“Do you personally plan to finish your education, work full-time, marry, and then have children?,” 97 percent said yes.

And when I asked, “If you came home at Thanksgiving and told your parents you (or your girlfriend) were having a baby, would your parents freak out?,” 99 percent said yes.

In one sense, these answers are unsurprising. The great majority of my students, about 80 percent, report hailing from an intact family with married parents. (My class at UVA is not exceptional in this regard: 73 percent of students at elite colleges and universities nationally were born to married parents who have since stayed married, versus 51 percent of high-school seniors across the country.) At the same time, a majority of my students are liberal or progressive on many social issues—they are, at a minimum, nonjudgmental about lifestyles unlike their own.

But there’s a problem with this disjunction between my students’ public family ethic and their own private family orientation, a disjunction I see regularly in elite circles. Voluminous research shows that being born into a married, stable household confers enormous benefits on children, whether the parents are rich or poor. The question I put to my students about their life plans involves a variant of what social scientists call the “success sequence.” Research clearly shows that taking three steps—(1) getting at least a high-school degree, (2) working full-time in your 20s, and (3) marrying before you have children—dramatically increases your odds of reaching the middle class or higher and minimizes the chances of your children growing up in poverty.

Yet many elites today—professors, journalists, educators, and other culture shapers—publicly discount or deny the importance of marriage, the two-parent family, and the value of doing all that you can to “stay together for the sake of the children,” even as they privately value every one of these things. On family matters, they “talk left” but “walk right”—an unusual form of hypocrisy that, however well intended, contributes to American inequality, increases misery, and borders on the immoral.


The Two-Parent Privilege is Real: A review of Melissa Kearney’s important new book.
JUSTIN VASSALLO, 2/02/24, Liberal Patriot)

In her new book, The Two-Parent Privilege: How Americans Stopped Getting Married and Started Falling Behind, economist Melissa S. Kearney takes an unflinching look at how the fragmentation of the ordinary American family is, in fact, both an overlooked dimension and driver of modern inequality. “It is not only that lacking two parents makes it harder for some kids to go to college and lead a comfortable life,” Kearney contends. “In the aggregate, it also undermines social mobility and perpetuates inequality across generations.”

Backed with abundant data, Kearney argues the collapse of marriage as a social institution among lower-income families has compounded the demographic consequences of stagnant wages and the loss of steady employment in many sectors and regions. This phenomenon, she writes, is inextricable from the education gap, the geographic narrowing of economic opportunities, and policy decisions that have reinforced the advantages of the already well-off.

That which is accessible to all is, be definition, not a privilege.


Millennials have found a way to buy houses: Living with mom and dad: More than a fifth of adult millennials chose to live rent-free before buying their own houses, according to real estate data (Julian Mark and Eli Tan, January 1, 2024, Washington Post)

The strategy has gained traction among young adults trying to bridge the gap between sky-high rents and a daunting real estate market. In 2022, the share of first-time buyers who moved directly from a friend’s or family member’s home and into their own hit 27 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors. That’s the highest share since the group started keeping track in 1989. Though that number trended lower this year to 23 percent, it remains elevated, said Jessica Lautz, deputy chief economist and vice president of research at NAR.

For swaths of millennials, hunkering down with family gave them breathing room to save for a home. The trade-off comes down to temporarily relinquishing a measure of independence to achieve a milestone increasingly out of reach for people their age.

Having the aduut kids home was one of the things that made the pandemic so enjoyable.


The Biggest Root Cause of Crime Is Fatherlessness (Jason L. Riley, Dec. 12, 2023, WSJ)

A new academic paper from the Institute for Family Studies doesn’t deny that economic conditions play a role in criminal behavior. And co-authors Rafael Mangual, Brad Wilcox, Joseph Price and Seth Cannon write that “changes in law-enforcement and the prosecution of criminals have also had a hand in the recent uptick in violent crime in American cities.” The paper’s main argument, however, is that family instability may be the biggest factor of all and that it’s not receiving the attention it deserves.

“Cities are safer when two-parent families are dominant and more crime-ridden when family instability is common,” the authors write. Nationwide, the total crime rate is about 48% higher in cities “that have above the median share of single-parent families, compared to cities that have fewer single-parent families.” Even when controlling for variables such as race, income and educational attainment, “the association between family structure and total crime rates, as well as violent crime rates, in cities across the United States remains statistically significant.”

Having a father around, the authors note, is about more than an additional paycheck. Fathers teach their sons responsibility, self-control, how to carry themselves, how to treat women. They tend to be more effective disciplinarians, and their involvement in childrearing is linked to positive outcomes in the academic development of their children, “especially in mathematics and verbal skills.” That finding “has been established for both sons and daughters but, unsurprisingly, it is especially pronounced among boys. The presence of married fathers is also protective against school suspensions and expulsions, as well as the risk of dropping out of high school.”

Between 1960 and 2019, the percentage of babies in the U.S. born to unwed mothers grew from 5% to almost 50%. “Shifts from the late-1960s to the 1990s away from stable families have left some cities, and especially some neighborhoods, vulnerable to higher rates of crime, especially violent crime,” the study concludes. “We need to realign material and cultural incentives in our cities to favor marriage and stable families, not undercut them.”

Morality works.