Archives: Elizabeth Marquardt

An Announcement About the FamilyScholars Blog

Elizabeth Marquardt 04.29.2013 11:07 AM

Dear FamilyScholars readers:

In the constantly changing digital age, the FamilyScholars blog has had a relatively long life. Launched in 2003, it hosted a lively discourse until a brief hiatus in 2008, then re-launched in 2010 and has been active ever since. Over the years, dozens of FamilyScholars bloggers have written powerful posts, engaged one another’s ideas, and made friendships or found worthy debating partners in the comments section—in fact, more than a few of our bloggers originally began as commenters at the site. As editor since 2010, I personally have enormously appreciated the variety and depth of relationships I have formed because of this blog.

So it is with some sadness, but also with bright confidence about new possibilities, that I share with you today that the FamilyScholars blog will again go on hiatus. We simply don’t have the staff right now to maintain the blog and the comments section at a high level of excellence. And, more importantly, we want to broaden our outreach on the full range of civil society topics that the Institute engages in the U.S. and the world. (See to learn a lot more.) The new publication, with a new editor, will launch soon. Please do sign up to be alerted about it and share the news with others.

For now, I want to offer gratitude: To all of our FamilyScholars bloggers for the extraordinary, volunteer contributions they have made over the years; to our wonderful Institute for American Values staff who have made this blog technically possible; and, most especially, to our readers who engaged our ideas, kept us sharp, and shared our posts with their friends around the world.

Thank you.


Elizabeth Marquardt

John Corvino and David Blankenhorn, live at 6 pm EST

Elizabeth Marquardt 04.04.2013 5:32 PM

Starts in 28 minutes–join us!

Will Liberals Help to Save Marriage? Starts 6 pm EST

Elizabeth Marquardt 04.03.2013 5:38 PM

Join host David Blankenhorn in conversation with Peter Steinfels, professor at Fordham University and former New York Times “Beliefs” columnist, and Institute affiliate scholar Amy Ziettlow, co-author of the recent report Does the Shape of Families Shape Faith, starting at 6 pm eastern time in a live streamed, live blogged event at our Center for Public Conversation.

‘The Decline of Marriage and the Rise of Unwed Mothers: An Economic Mystery’

Elizabeth Marquardt 03.22.2013 11:43 PM

At The Atlantic online, Derek Thompson writes:

This was the most shocking statistic I read this weekend: 58 percent of first births in lower-middle-class households are now to unmarried women. Meanwhile, two in five of all births are to unwed mothers, an all-time high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The thesis of this fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal says the real mystery here isn’t “Why so many babies?” but rather “Why so few marriages?” — particularly among less-educated men and women.

This is a complex economic mystery that we’ve explored often at The Atlantic, but we can take a big bite out of it by focusing on three factors: (1) The changing meaning of marriage in America; (2) declining wages for low-skill men; and (3) the declining costs of being a single person. more

‘Why Do Economists Urge College, But Not Marriage?’

Elizabeth Marquardt 03.22.2013 11:40 PM

Megan McArdle at the Daily Beast writes:

College improves your earning prospects.  So does marriage.  Education makes you more likely to live longer.  So does marriage.  Yet while many economist[s] vocally support initiatives to move more people into college, very few of them vocally favor initiatives to get more people married.  Why is that…?

‘Study of Men’s Falling Income Cites Single Parents’

Elizabeth Marquardt 03.22.2013 11:37 PM

Binyamin Applebaum at the NYT reports:

The decline of two-parent households may be a significant reason for the divergent fortunes of male workers, whose earnings generally declined in recent decades, and female workers, whose earnings generally increased, a prominent labor economist argues in a new survey of existing research.

David H. Autor, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that the difference between men and women, at least in part, may have roots in childhood. Only 63 percent of children lived in a household with two parents in 2010, down from 82 percent in 1970. The single parents raising the rest of those children are predominantly female. And there is growing evidence that sons raised by single mothers “appear to fare particularly poorly,” Professor Autor wrote in an analysis for Third Way, a center-left policy research organization.


Elizabeth Marquardt 03.22.2013 11:35 PM

At the NYT Room for Debate, six experts debate the meaning (and legal worth) of pre-nups.

A New York woman, Elizabeth Petrakis, recently announced that she’d had her prenuptial agreement voided, claiming she was coerced into signing it four days before her wedding.

If a legal document like a prenup can be thrown out by the court, is it worth pursuing to begin with? If so, should everyone have one?

Dutton on Sally

Elizabeth Marquardt 03.20.2013 9:45 AM

Susan Dutton has expanded her wonderful contribution to the recent FamilyScholars symposium hosted by Amy Ziettlow into a longer piece at Huffington Post, featuring a story about someone she calls “Sally”:

…From my perspective as a leader who works to strengthen families, I believe it is critical for all us to work together to strengthen the institution of marriage and the evolving American family. From single parents, to cohabiting adults, to those married and remarried, the challenges are great and complex.

Let’s consider the true story of a single mother we’ll call Sally, working for a Fortune 500 company. She is under pressure to perform and to compete against young, unmarried workers. Sally summons the courage once to say that extra work on evenings and weekends is difficult, but her boss asks sarcastically if she is on the “mommy track” or the “career track.” Being salaried she is not paid extra for the overtime. Her children’s father is neither involved nor paying child support, and Sally is not near immediate family. She has to pay even more for childcare to work the overtime.more

Brookings “Knot Yet” event live now

Elizabeth Marquardt 03.20.2013 9:37 AM

Out here in Chicago, I got the kids bundled off to school and tuned in about 25 minutes late, but it will be rolling for a while. Andrew Cherlin is up right now.

Update: Now Ross Douthat is up.

Update: Now Ron Haskins is asking questions, and Kay Hymowitz is up!

For the full event schedule, scroll down here. FamilyScholars blogger David Lapp is joinin in at some point.

Tell me a story

Elizabeth Marquardt 03.18.2013 11:35 AM

This weekend Bruce Feiler excerpted his book, The Secrets of Happy Families, in the NYT Style section. A friend tells me the book is terrific and has already improved their family life. Feiler focuses on stories:

…a surprising theme emerged. The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.

I first heard this idea from Marshall Duke, a colorful psychologist at Emory University. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Duke was asked to help explore myth and ritual in American families.

“There was a lot of research at the time into the dissipation of the family,” he told me at his home in suburban Atlanta. “But we were more interested in what families could do to counteract those forces.”

Around that time, Dr. Duke’s wife, Sara, a psychologist who works with children with learning disabilities, noticed something about her students.

“The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges,” she said.more

When justice, of a sort, is done

Elizabeth Marquardt 03.17.2013 1:15 AM

Narelle Grech, a founder of Tangled Webs and an extraordinarily brave voice in the international debate about the rights of donor conceived persons, has finally found her father. Grech is very ill, and it appears that top levels of the Australian government made a special exception to open a file to provide her with information that is rightfully hers.  (Photograph by Meredith O’Shea for The Age.)

Photograph Meredith O'Shea. 140313.The Sunday Age.Photograph shows. L to R Narelle Grech and her biological father Ray Tonna.

”Hitching Up’ for a Strong Middle Class’

Elizabeth Marquardt 03.17.2013 1:07 AM

Brad Wilcox and David Lapp have a terrific new piece at the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star on the new Knot Yet report co-authored by Wilcox.

In February, President Obama delivered a speech in Chicago about strengthening the middle class and reducing gun violence. He made an observation that drew little attention but has the potential to bring together gridlocked Republicans and Democrats. The task of rebuilding a strong and secure middle class, he suggested–of rebuilding “the ladders of opportunity for everybody willing to climb them”–does not start with the White House, or the states, or public schools.

It “starts at home.”

“There’s no more important ingredient for success,” President Obama suggested, “nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families–which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood.” Getting personal, he said, “I wish I had a father who was around and involved.”

You don’t have to be a Democrat, or a Republican, to recognize that President Obama is right.

And appreciating the link between a thriving marriage culture and a thriving middle class is especially important because of the crisis of marriage in Middle America today. more

Pew on ‘Modern Parenthood’

Elizabeth Marquardt 03.14.2013 2:47 PM

Kim Parker and Wendy Wang at the Pew Research Center have a new report out on mothers, fathers, and work-family balance.

The way mothers and fathers spend their time has changed dramatically in the past half century. Dads are doing more housework and child care; moms more paid work outside the home. Neither has overtaken the other in their “traditional” realms, but their roles are converging, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of long-term data on time use.

At the same time, roughly equal shares of working mothers and fathers report in a new Pew Research Center survey feeling stressed about juggling work and family life: 56% of working moms and 50% of working dads say they find it very or somewhat difficult to balance these responsibilities.

Still, there are important gender role differences. While a nearly equal share of mothers and fathers say they wish they could be at home raising their children rather than working, dads are much more likely than moms to say they want to work full time. And when it comes to what they value most in a job, working fathers place more importance on having a high-paying job, while working mothers are more concerned with having a flexible schedule. more

Gov. Cuomo should not heartlessly force sick or elderly couples into poverty or unwanted divorce in order to get Medicaid long term care

Elizabeth Marquardt 03.13.2013 12:09 AM

Apparently Gov. Cuomo has put the spousal refusal provision for Medicaid back on the list of possible cuts again in this year’s budget. The Staten Island Advance editorial says:

…The governor wants to eliminate the so-called “spousal refusal” provision that allows New Yorkers even at higher income levels to get Medicaid reimbursements for long-term care. The state Health Department says that doing so, would save taxpayers up to $100 million or more a year.

Spousal refusal allows the healthy spouse in a marriage to essentially divest the assets of a husband or wife in need of long-term care. In that way, the family need not spend the bulk of its own assets to pay for that care…

According to Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who recently wrote a letter to the Advance opposing the governor’s plan, “Spousal refusal allows for a healthy spouse, known as the community spouse, to protect their entire life savings from being garnished by the government to supplement the massive expense related to assisted living and long-term care.”

She said that with it in place, the healthy spouse is allowed to keep the family home, a car and up to $113,640 in assets. Were the spousal refusal provision to be eliminated, the couple would have to live the rest of their lives with just $20,850 in assets.

As she notes, this would hit middle-class families particularly hard. Even younger families with children in which one spouse is stricken with a catastrophic illness would be wiped out.

Without the provision (which NY is fairly unique in having), couples have to spend down all their life savings or consider divorce in order to protect assets for the well spouse so they can get long term care through Medicaid for the ill spouse. (Keep in mind there is no long term care provision in Medicare, and private long term care insurance is prohibitively expensive for most.)

Here’s a piece I wrote at Huffington Post’s New York page one year ago, when he also tried this: “Gov. Cuomo Should Not Jettison the “Spousal Refusal” Allowance in State’s Medicaid Program“:

…Critics charge that New York’s spousal refusal allowance benefits wealthy New Yorkers who get to protect their assets while using Medicaid to care for their sick spouse. But let’s face it: people with resources want to pay for the best quality, most attractive and most home-like long-term care settings, which often don’t accept Medicaid. Those who will really suffer under the governor’s proposed change are elderly middle and low-income New Yorkers, people who worked hard all the years they were healthy and should not callously be forced into divorce by the state in order to get the health care they need.

Should religious people join the new conversation on marriage?

Elizabeth Marquardt 03.12.2013 5:32 PM

Join the next live-streamed, live-blogged event, March 19 at 6 pm, coming from our Center for Public Conversation in New York City. R.R. Reno of First Things will join David Blankenhorn in the studio.

For more information about the event, see the invitation.

To see the whole series of events between now and June, and video of our recent conversation between Jonathan Haidt and David Blankenhorn, see the Center for Public Conversation page.

And, if you haven’t yet, be sure to read and sign “A Call to a New Conversation on Marriage.”

Did you see your parents give?

Elizabeth Marquardt 03.11.2013 12:32 AM

While flipping through a book on fundraising in higher education I found this fascinating short review of sources on how seeing one’s parents give (of their money, time, effort) influences altruism and later giving in their children:

…Bentley and Nissan (1996) explored how primary school students learn philanthropy and altruistic behavior. The study suggests that witnessing an influential adult (parent or guardian, teacher, religious or youth organization leader) engage in acts of philanthropy is most effective in passing along the importance of helping others. Schervish and Havens (1997), using the 1992 Survey of Giving and Volunteering in the United States, found that witnessing at least one parent or guardian engage in volunteer work, watching a family member help others, or being the recipient of help while young was associated with higher levels of giving as an adult. Hunt (1990) referred to it as “modeling theory.” This teachable moment is intensified when it is coupled with a discussion about the importance of such actions (Bar-Tal, 1976; Bentley and Nissan, 1996).

One example of parental modeling is found in Rosenhan’s research (1970). He studied deeply committed and involved civil rights volunteers and found their sense of action and volunteerism was born out of their home environment. Additionally, Cascione (2003) found family influences and experiences affect the motivations of major gift donors in higher education: “Participation drew directly from their family backgrounds and was assisted by the historical milieu in which they were living. Having individuals who are able to teach generosity through their actions and lifestyles plays a crucial role [in] carrying on a philanthropic tradition. Role modeling represents a form of teaching philanthropic values and individuals who represent such generosity encourage others by their actions. Extraordinary acts of generosity become ordinary events and since they are seen as ordinary events, the ability to replicate them would be a typical response in the course of an individual’s life” (p. 69).

Finally, the most effective tool is for the child to participate in giving and volunteerism to help reinforce the positive feelings associated with helping others (Bentley and Nissan, 1996). Hodgkinson and Weitzman (1996) found that among those who have seen a family member help another person or family member, 73.6 percent make charitable contributions; while of those who do not recall seeing a family member give, the probability of donating is only 50 percent. Parental actions also affect children’s in-kind philanthropy such as volunteering. Bekkers (2003) correlated adult children’s volunteering with recollections of their parents’ volunteering. Other scholars have found that adults influence children in teaching values such as philanthropy as well (Bremner, 1996; Grusec and Kuczynski, 1997; Steinberg and Wilhelm, 2003a).

–from Noah D. Drezner, Philanthropy and Fundraising in American Higher Education, ASHE Higher Education Report, volume 37, no 2 (2011), pp. 59-60.

The Container Store, the storage unit, and stuff

Elizabeth Marquardt 03.11.2013 12:11 AM

Graham Hill (who sounds like he has embraced two sides of extreme individualism, first buying a huge home alone and filling it with stuff, then buying a tiny home alone and outfitting it with less, but even more ingenuous, stuff), shares in the NYT:

Our fondness for stuff affects almost every aspect of our lives. Housing size, for example, has ballooned in the last 60 years. The average size of a new American home in 1950 was 983 square feet; by 2011, the average new home was 2,480 square feet. And those figures don’t provide a full picture. In 1950, an average of 3.37 people lived in each American home; in 2011, that number had shrunk to 2.6 people. This means that we take up more than three times the amount of space per capita than we did 60 years ago.

Video up

Elizabeth Marquardt 03.08.2013 11:09 AM

Video of Tuesday’s conversation with Jonathan Haidt is now available! Watch as Jonathan Haidt, David Blankenhorn, and Kathleen Kovner Kline discuss if and how we can get beyond the marriage culture wars. This is unedited video; more to come.

‘Spirituality: Kids of divorce aren’t as resilient as we’d like to believe they are’

Elizabeth Marquardt 03.07.2013 8:06 PM

In a local newspaper column, Pastor Jeff Snow writes:

…The first challenge is to the Church. A shocking statistic I came across was from a survey of church-going teens who had experienced parental divorce. They were asked if anyone in the church had reached out to them in any way during the period of the divorce. Two-thirds said no one did! The Church needs to notice children of divorce, hear them, and support them.

The second challenge is to couples. Marriage is a challenge. There are always struggles. Of course, in violent and abusive marriages, the victim and children need to get out immediately. This isn’t about them. This challenge is to the two-thirds of divorcing couples who are facing what experts call ‘elective divorces,’ where the situation is low-conflict and potentially resolvable. The challenge is, work at your marriage. Find solutions. For your sake and for the sake of the kids. Don’t believe the myth that they are resilient and will bounce back. In many cases, they will not. more

‘Warning: Children of divorce may want to the skip the trailer for ‘What Maisie Knew’’

Elizabeth Marquardt 03.06.2013 2:42 PM

Says Nathan Adams writing in Portland Pulp about the new film starring Julianne Moore in a contemporary adaptation of Henry James’ late 19th century novel about a child of divorce, What Maisie Knew.

Henry James was an author ahead of his time. So much so that he was writing novels about messy divorces and how much of a traumatic experience it can be for kids to have selfish, irresponsible dipshits for parents all the way back in 1897. It’s like he was looking forward to our present society full of damaged perverts and addicts in a crystal ball.

The novel being alluded to was called What Maisie Knew, and it’s a work that’s held up so well, directing duo Scott McGehee and David Siegel (The Deep End, Uncertainty) have adapted it into a contemporary-set drama starring names like Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan, Alexander Skarsgård and newcomer Onata Aprile.