A new study of census data shows that only 39% of Peach State children are living with both of their natural parents. That puts Georgia tied with four other states for the lowest rate of two parent households, according to an analysis presented in the New York Times.
Mississippi is at the bottom, with only 32 of children living with their parents, followed by Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama. The other states tied with Georgia in fifth are Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma and South Carolina. At the other end of the scale, Utah has the most kids living with their parents at 57%, followed by Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Hampshire and North Dakota, all at above 50% of children living with their parents.
In general, children living in northern states are more likely to live in a traditional family setting than those living in the south. And while it might be convenient to attribute the difference to the red state / blue state model used in politics, the Times points out there could be more at play:
In the blue-state model, Americans get more education and earn higher income — and more educated, higher-earning people tend to marry and stay married. In Minnesota, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut, at least 51 percent of teenagers are being raised by both biological parents, among the highest rates in the nation. (That figure excludes families in which the two parents are together without being married; such arrangements are still rare — and less likely to last than marriages.)
In the red-state model, educational attainment is closer to average, but “residents are more likely to have deep normative and religious commitments to marriage and to raising children within marriage,” write Mr. Wilcox and Mr. Zill, in a paper for the Institute for Family Studies. This model applies across much of the Great Plains and Mountain West, including Nebraska and Utah.
The lowest rates of two-parent families tend to be in states that don’t fit either model: red states with the lowest levels of education or blue states with only average levels of education.
Although it is only drawn to the state level, the map of the country based on the family data tracks others presented by the Times, including counties with the least income mobility and the counties that are the hardest places in which to live.
This study, along with the others, points to a relationship between family status, income levels, and educational attainment. From a political standpoint, what can governments do to try to ameliorate the situation?
Here in Georgia, Governor Deal has worked to reform the criminal justice system to keep more people out of the prison system, and for those that remain, to provide an education. He and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle have tried to broaden educational opportunities beyond college preparatory classes to provide training in career paths in technical fields. Voters will decide in 2016 whether to move forward with an Opportunity School District that will attempt to improve some of the Peach State’s worst schools.
Are solutions like these going to make any difference, or are there other political approaches that might work better? Or, are these problems intractable because of the way the country was originally settled?
As Georgia continues to grow, compete for jobs, and improve the quality of life for its residents, it’s a discussion worth having.