A new study says that while most Californians support the redefinition of marriage and the family, they choose intact marriages and traditional families.
“People with the most amount of choice and privilege, when they have a choice, they choose things like these traditional structures which are most pleasant to live in,” said Catherine Pakaluk, assistant professor of social research and economic thought at the Catholic University of America, in an interview on Wednesday with CNA.
The new report by the Institute for Family Studies (IFS), “State of Contradiction: Progressive family culture, traditional family structure in California,” focuses on a survey of Californians about marriage and children.
Authored by Wendy Wang, director of research at IFS, and W. Bradford Wilcox, a senior fellow at IFS, the report “reveals a paradox at the heart of California’s success.” While Californians mostly supported “family diversity,” or non-traditional families, they also reported higher-than-average intact marriages and families where children live with their biological parents—“traditional” families.
“On the one hand, the Golden State, especially through Hollywood and Silicon Valley, has been a global messenger of expressive individualism, personal fulfillment, and tolerance—values associated with progressivism,” Wang and Wilcox wrote.
“On the other hand, the families that actually live in the Golden State tend to be traditional.”
For the study, IFS analyzed data from its California Family Survey conducted by the polling company YouGov between Sept. 6 and Oct. 11, 2019, of 2,000 adults in California ages 18 to 50.
According to Census data, around two-thirds—67%—of marriages in the state are intact, more than the U.S. average of 63%, the report found. Meanwhile, 65% of children ages 0-17 live with their married biological parents, greater than the national average of 62%.
A possible major contributor to the marriage numbers in the state, IFS said, is the state’s high immigrant population. In the state, 75% of foreign-born parents have children in intact marriages, compared to 62% of native-born Californians.
As Wang and Wilcox noted, “California is home to the largest immigrant population in the United States” while “immigrant families are more likely than native-born families to be intact.”
Pakaluk said the impact that immigrant families have on American culture is significant--but is not certain to last forever. Immigrants may gravitate towards societal trends of non-traditional families over time, and the influx of immigrants into the U.S. is not a certainty in the long-term.
“The extent to which American culture has been buoyed up by immigrants with very healthy and traditional family patterns, as these immigrant streams start to become smaller--because they will over time,” Pakaluk said, “it’s an open question whether or not we can continue to count on these essentially good cultural contributions from Hispanics and Asians who have these strong traditional family structures.”
Almost half (46%) of California households are Hispanic, and 15% of them Asian, compared with just 22% and 7% respectively for the U.S. average.
And the Asian Californian population—higher than the national average—maintained traditional families while being accepting of the redefinition of marriage and the family. Three-quarters of Asian Californians said it was important for them to get married before having children, compared to just 62% of whites, 66% of blacks, and 59% of Hispanics.
Meanwhile, this population was as likely or even more likely as other demographics to accept family diversity, with 79% of Asians affirming it, compared to 82% of whites, 73% of blacks, and only 67% of Hispanics.
A higher percentage of college-educated adults are likely to approve of “family diversity,” or non-traditional families, while themselves living in or desiring a traditional family structure where children live with their biological mother and father who are married to each other.
However, the authors said, “the education level of California parents does not appear to explain California’s higher level of stable families,” as “among parents with children, California does not have a higher share of college-educated residents than the nation as a whole.”
Among the study’s respondents, 85% of those with a college or graduate degree in California said that family diversity is a good thing. Meanwhile, almost 70% of this population also answered “It’s very important for me, personally, to be married before having my children.”
And, in practice, 80% of college-educated California parents “are in intact marriages.” Meanwhile, just 60% of parents without a college degree are in intact marriages.