Marriage: All Talk & No Action?

Marriage: All Talk & No Action?

2016 | Week of February 29 | #1139

“The State of the Family in America: How do we measure success?” That’s the name of a main-session panel I’m on this Friday at the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC. On this panel, I’ll be joining moderator Stan Swim, executive director of the Sutherland Institute, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, conservative CNBC economist Larry Kudlow and American Conservative Union economist Dr. Wendy Warcholik.

On Thursday, I’ll be speaking on another panel related to the family. This event will launch a new and, I believe, game-changing publication called The Family Prosperity Index, co-created by Dr. Wendy Warcholik and Scott Moody.

I’m honored to be on both panels, to be sure. And I’m very pleased that CPAC is including this topic on its agenda. It’s way past time that conservatives understand that the well-being of marriage and the natural family unit is directly related to our ability to remain a free, a prosperous and a limited-government people and nation. I plan to talk a lot about marriage.

In Wisconsin I’m encouraged by Governor Walker recently creating the Future of the Family Commission. This Commission is headed by Eloise Anderson, Secretary of the Department of Children and Families.  The Commission is tasked with getting the best input possible and developing recommendations that will be delivered to the Governor by the end of this year. I’ll be interested in seeing what those recommendations look like.

Thus far, the Commission has met twice and has heard from several experts on the family, some from Wisconsin and some from outside Wisconsin. Videos of the meetings are available online, and it’s clear from these videos that one of the main topics thus far has been marriage—that marriage is important to the well-being of families. Again, lots of talk about marriage.

This marriage issue is popping up in some unusual places. A few weeks ago a website released a list of the 10 most miserable cities in Wisconsin. The researchers examined 7 criteria to rank Wisconsin’s 169 largest cities: percentage of residents with a college degree, average commute times, unemployment rates, cost of living, percent of married couples, percent of home owners, and poverty rate. I found this research and the ranking fascinating. The top 4 most miserable cities, based on this data, are Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine, and Beloit.

Quite frankly, these cities don’t surprise me. These are cities where we have some of the worst family statistics. Let’s just take marriage. The 4 most miserable cities have an average marriage percentage of 38%, while the 4 happiest Wisconsin cities, Elm Grove, Rib Mountain, McFarland and Waunakee, have an average marriage percentage of 63%. I’m going to posit that at least 4 of the other data points are to a great degree driven by this marriage reality:  college education, home ownership, poverty, and unemployment.

What can we deduce from this? We can deduce, as social science research continues to show, that marriage is not just good for the individuals in a marriage but it has a profound public good. Children brought up in homes of married dads and moms are more likely to finish high school, go to college, get good jobs, not experience poverty, and own their own homes than children brought up in any other kind of family structure—and very importantly, children brought up in homes with married moms and dads are significantly more likely to experience positive relationships as adults, including getting married.

What do we have in Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine and Beloit? Lots of never-formed families, single-parent households, and rampant fatherlessness. Frankly, this is a recipe for a community-wide disaster—and some would say Milwaukee in particular is already a disaster. Again, lots of words and talk.

This week I’m going to be able to say on a national stage some truths about marriage and family and the importance of this institution to the well-being of our nation. Every day the evidence mounts showing that we as a people are truly only as strong as our natural families—that is, families headed by married dads and moms. The question is will what the evidence shows begin making a difference in what we do? If it’s true that only action changes the world, then we need government to act. We need families, churches and communities to act. Until action happens, sadly, I look for more of the same. It’s time to do more than just talk about marriage.

This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

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