Wednesday, June 20, 2007

New Research on the Family

I just put on my sidebar (under magazines and their blogs -- well it didn't seem to fit anywhere else) the Howard Center, whose mission is to explain and defend the "natural family." The masthead has "family, religion, and society" which is of course Luther's three hierarchies of church, family, and city.

This site has some great resources (although it does not have a blog -- as yet.) One of more amazing sources of information is the second set of abstracts summarizing new research on the family prepared by Bryce Christensen and Robert W. Patterson. (Here's the first set.)

Let me just note a few of the more fascinating bits of research:

1) What were we talking about a while ago? Social democracy? Oh yes:

"the labor force participation rate among women, and especially among mothers of preschool children, strongly and positively correlated with well-developed welfare states in each of the three components of the index.

Multivariate regressions that controlled for both individual-level and country-level characteristics not only confirmed these correlations, but also found that, all things being equal, women’s odds of employment are almost three times higher, relative to men, in countries at the high end of the welfare scale than in countries at the bottom. The correlations with women’s employment also remained significant in models that controlled for variables whose effects could be mistakenly attributed to the welfare index: GDP, unemployment, the Gini index of income inequality, and attitudes toward gender egalitarianism."

Ironically, however, the researchers (who aren't anti-social democracy at all) found that Scandinavian social democracy, by socializing the family creates pink collar ghettos that actually hinder the employment of women in positions of higher influence (that's the part the researchers don't like).

"large welfare states create and sustain “sheltered labor markets” for women with convenient working terms (day care, maternity leaves, and flexible hours) and where women continue doing what they have historically done: caring for children and families, although now in institutional settings like schools as well as health care and social services, funded by the state."

(BTW, the first round-up summarized research showing that daycare may be more a cause of women joining the labor force than a response to it.)

2) So what does that have to do with religion in Europe? Well take a look at this:

In European countries women working outside the home are less likely to be religious than those not in the paid labor force:

A sociologist and a theologian at Tilberg University in the Netherlands examined data from the European Values Study, a series of surveys conducted in almost all European countries between 1999 and 2000, to explore how characteristics of individuals and countries influence individual religious beliefs and practices. They found, among factors at the individual level, that women in paid employment were significantly less religious (both in terms of belief and practice) than their peers who stayed at home. In fact, the level of religious belief among employed women was more like those of men, who were found to be less religious than women overall. These consistent patterns were found in almost all countries and were statistically significant (p<.001) in multivariate tests.

OK, correlation isn't causation but this is worth thinking about, right?

3) And by the way, isn't the free market in religion in America a great thing that keeps us religious by protecting us from all those dead state churches? Maybe not. The same researchers found:

Looking at the characteristics of countries, the study found that religious pluralism as measured by the Herfindahl Index—meaning the more religions in a country and the more evenly distributed their market shares—as well as the degree to which people trust the churches in their country, were each significantly related to religious belief and to religious practice: The greater the religious diversity of a country, the lower the levels of individual belief and practice; whereas higher levels of public confidence in the church increased each of the two measures.

4) And of course, large numbers of revivalist evangelicals lowers divorce, right? Well, not exactly. Large numbers of "moderate" or "miscellaneous" Protestants, Catholics, and especially Mormons.

Where “moderate” or “miscellaneous” Protestants,* Mormons, or Catholics were more heavily represented relative to other religious categories, that county had significantly fewer divorced persons. Conversely, higher divorce rates were significantly related to lower concentrations of each of these four categories. Moreover, the independent effects of the concentration of these denominational categories were able to explain 49 percent of the variance in the divorced rate with a confidence level of p<.01.

No statistically significant relationships, however, were found between the rate of divorced persons and a higher concentration of each of the remaining three categories: “conservative” Protestants, “liberal” Protestants,* and Jews.

It's actually a well-known fact in sociological circles that conservative revivalistic denominations are not particularly good for marriage -- in fact the researchers were surprised "conservative" Protestants didn't create an increase in divorce. But I have a hunch that a grouping by intensity of conversion experience expected would actually give a better resolution of Protestant churches that the conservative-liberal continuum. It is unfortunately the case that when adults are born again the new person isn't as happy with the old husband or wife. To put it this way: to promote stable marriages churches need to promote two things: 1) the value of marriage; and 2) the value of stability. Liberal Protestants fail at the first; revivalist sects fail at the second.

So one could make a good argument that the United States is more religious than Europe despite the anarchy of revivalistic sects, not because of it. (More tidbits along the lines of how a society-wide social church is actually better for society than passionate revivalism here. Short version: Southern Baptists are good for society only when they act like the state churches they rebelled against.)

5) But of course deep thinkers know that industrialization is what's really responsible for the breakup of the family. It's simplistic to just think that we can have the agricultural family in a post-industrial era. Right? Again, not exactly.

Looking at the effects of the industrialization on family forms,

[Michael J. Rosenfeld] marvels at how American families “weathered the social changes of the Industrial Revolution together.” In fact, because “the Industrial Revolution in the United States … took place during a period of Victorian social retrenchment,” Rosenfeld believes that in many ways “family government” remained quite strong. As a result, “some aspects of American family life remained surprisingly unchanged” during this tempestuous era.

During America’s Industrial Revolution, Rosenfeld points out, “most single young adults … remained in their parents’ homes until they married.” This pattern of coresidence allowed parents to maintain “a significant degree of supervision over their children’s social lives and made it much more difficult for young adults to form the kinds of unions that their parents would not have approved of.” As a consequence of this family governance, “age at first marriage remained constant” during the Industrial Revolution while “extramarital cohabitation remained rare.” As evidence of the remarkably persistent power of family governance, Rosenfeld cites Census data indicating that between 1880 and 1960 the percentage of American men living in nonmarital cohabitation “remained steady at 0.1 percent, one per thousand.”

So what's caused the rise in extramarital cohabitation? Well, it's not complicated:

Central to this analysis is the erosion of “the long-established norm of intergenerational adult coresidence.” Rosenfeld adduces statistics showing that “between 1950 and 2000 the percentage of single adult young women who lived with their parents dropped from 65 to 36 percent.” Not coincidentally, the percentage of young unmarried adults who headed their own households rose—fully 30 percent of young unmarried women and 27 percent of young unmarried men were heading their own households by 1980.

Young adults living with their parents while dating are less likely to move in with a boy or girlfriend, than young adults already in their own apartments. Simple, huh? No "deep-seated causes" no "deep loss of faith" dating from nominalism or the Reformation or industrialization, is needed to explain the rise in extramarital cohabitation: no, it's just that sometime between 1955 and 1965 parents and children stopped thinking it was appropriate for unmarried twenty-somethings to live at home. (And colleges stopped having parietal rules, by the way.)

Anyway, I love this kind of stuff and there's lots more there. Check it out for yourself.

*Moderate Protestant: e.g. AME Zion, American Lutheran Church, United Methodists (19 denominations)
Miscellaneous: e.g. Evangelical Mennonites, Quakers (12 denominations)
Conservative: e.g. Church of the Nazarene, Brethren, LCMS, Salvation Army, Southern Baptist (59 denominations)
Liberal: e.g. ECUSA, PCUSA, UCC (eight denominations)

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