Barry Deutsch, a fellow blogger here at Family Scholars, has asked about my affiliation with the Witherspoon Institute. For the record, I served as a fellow and as the director of the program on marriage, family, and democracy at the Witherspoon Institute from 2004 to 2011. These positions were honorific, and designed to highlight my writing and speaking on family-related issues. I also provided my perspective to Witherspoon Institute staff about scholarly matters of interest to the Institute, from a conference on marriage at Princeton University to the New Family Structures Study. However, I never served as an officer or a staffer at the Witherspoon Institute, and I never had the authority to make funding or programmatic decisions at the Institute. (Over the years, I have held similar fellowships at institutions ranging from Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion to Yale University’s Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion; these fellowships have also never entailed any kind of administrative authority at these other institutions.) In the fall of 2011, I stepped down from these positions at the Witherspoon Institute because the Institute and I were heading in different substantive directions, with my focus centering on the growing marriage divide in America.
From October of 2010 to April of 2012, I also served as one of about a dozen paid academic consultants to the New Family Structures Study (NFSS). As a consultant, I attended an initial planning meeting in Austin, Texas and provided input to Professor Mark Regnerus about the design, analysis, and interpretation of the survey data associated with the NFSS. The process associated with this study was much like other academic projects that I have been associated with over my career, in which scholars from a range of disciplines and a range of perspectives offered input on a project.
I viewed my consultation for the NFSS as collegial, that is, as providing academic advice that Regnerus was free to take or ignore (and he took some advice, and went his own way on other matters). I was not acting in an official Witherspoon capacity in relationship to him.
Finally, I note that the NFSS data has been given to the University of Michigan’s Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) data archive. This means that other scholars can analyze the NFSS data for themselves, and draw their own conclusions about the value of the data and the study.