New Jersey ranks third highest in the country for most intact families according to Family Research Council's Marriage & Religion Research Institute (MARRI) in its newly released second annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection.

New Jersey's Family Belonging Index score of 53.6 is closely linked with the state's higher high school graduation rate, higher average test scores, a lower teenage out of wedlock birth rate, and relatively low child poverty rate.

In New Jersey:

  • 53.6 percent of children in the state reach the age of 17 with both their biological parents married (since before or around the time of their birth). This compares to 45.8 percent of all American children who grow up within intact families.
  • 84.6 percent of New Jersey children graduate from high school.
  • The child poverty rate in New Jersey is 13 percent.
  • The unmarried teen birth rate is 5.5 percent.

The study found that:

  • While the effects of government spending on high school graduation rates are curvilinear and offer diminishing returns, family belonging is positively and significantly associated with high school graduation rates.
  • Family belonging and child poverty are significantly, inversely related: States with high Index values have relatively low child poverty rates, and vice versa.
  • There is also a significant, inverse relationship between family belonging and the incidence of births to unmarried teenagers.

MARRI Director Dr. Pat Fagan made the following comments:

This year's Index of Family Belonging and Rejection shows that the family is very important in determining a child's future success or failure. The report shows that New Jersey and states with higher rates of intact families have higher rates of high school graduation as well as higher average scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The intact marriage of parents is more closely linked to educational outcomes than is government spending.

"New Jersey and other states with higher scores on the Index have lower child poverty rates, and states that score low have high child poverty rates. A father is motivated to work harder to support a child when he is the biological parent of the child and lives with the child and is married to the mother. Conversely, many non-residential parents do not pay child support, and those that do, do not pay much.

"Research at the individual family level has shown that adolescents who live in single-parent families, cohabiting or stepfamilies are more likely to give birth out-of-wedlock. This continues the cycle of broken families and childhood poverty.

"Government can do two things to help alter this trend. The first is to persuade people by creating, compiling and publicizing sound research evidence on the links between family living arrangements and youth development, as well as those between family characteristics and community functioning and well-being. The second is to change the present policies, intended to help those in need, but which have many negative consequences particularly by encouraging the formation of more high-risk families," concluded Fagan.

Read the Index of Family Belonging and Rejection.