Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal jokes with Vander Plaats after the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, last year. REUTERS/Brian Frank

The very states where candidates are running on “family values” platforms have more single-parent families than anywhere else.

While presidential hopefuls including Piyush “Bobby” Jindal and Mike Huckabee are campaigning themselves as restorers of traditional family values, the states they represent don’t actually reflect those ideals. Louisiana, where Jindal governs, and Arkansas, where Huckabee used to govern, are among the states with the lowest rates of children raised by married, biological parents. In fact, most of the Bible Belt southern states are, too.

As reported Thursday by David Leonhardt in The Upshot, a recent study shows a North-South divide in America when it comes to two-parent households. The study, from University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox and psychologist Nicholas Zill, recognizes that while divorce and marriage rates have recently declined, single parenthood rates have surged upward. While they conclude that conservative states in general have more stable family structures, the map from their study clearly shows a concentration of states with the lowest parentage of two-parent households to be in the Southeast.  

What this means for the children raised in these environments is up for debate. Leonhardt points to research that claims children of two-parent households end up better off economically. Other studies show that place matters just as much—if not more—in determining bright economic futures. From The Upshot’s map (above), though, we can see that the southern states with the lowest rate of two-parent households are the same as those with the worst quality of living.

The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council lists all of the states with the lowest rate of two-parent families (except Georgia) among its worst for education performance. Most of these states also ranked at the bottom of Education Week’s Quality Counts rankings as well. Ditto for health care system rankings, as compiled by the Commonwealth Fund and the United Health Foundation.  

Some may attempt to connect the low rates of two-parent families in these states to the large African-American populations in them. Nope. As seen in Kids Count maps from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, there’s less of a divide between southern and northern states when it comes to the percentage of African-American children in single-family homes. The states with the largest percentages of black children in single-parent homes are in the north.   

Meanwhile, the states with the highest percentage of white children in single-parent families are mostly in the south.

The data used in Wilcox’s and Zill’s research does not include adopted children or children living with same-sex parents. But there are likely fewer same-sex parent families in the south, given those states do not allow gay marriage and that Mississippi and Louisiana forbid LGBTQ couples from jointly adopting children.

                                      (Family Equality Council, Movement Advancement Project)

It could be that children’s future prospects have less to do with how many parents are in the home and much more to do with the policies governing the states they live in. Knowing all of the above information, that’s going to be a tough talking point for presidential candidates who hail from these states.   

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  2. photo: a WeWork office
    Equity

    Amid Layoffs, WeWork’s Other Workers Are Making a Stand

    The co-working giant is letting 2,400 employees go and outsourcing 1,000 cleaning and facilities jobs as part of a company-wide belt-tightening.

  3. photo: A Starship Technologies commercial delivery robot navigates a sidewalk.
    POV

    My Fight With a Sidewalk Robot

    A life-threatening encounter with AI technology convinced me that the needs of people with disabilities need to be engineered into our autonomous future.

  4. photo: Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar
    Equity

    What a Trillion-Dollar Housing Pledge Looks Like

    Representative Ilhan Omar’s Homes for All Act would fund the construction of 12 million new homes in the U.S. over 10 years, mostly as public housing.  

  5. photo: A stylish new funeral parlor called Exit Here in London.
    Design

    Death Be Not Dull

    U.K. restaurateur Oliver Peyton’s newest project, a style-forward funeral home called Exit Here, aims to shake up a very traditional industry.

×