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The Synod on the Family: Multi-disciplinary Perspectives from the American Context

This DSPT Symposium—part of the 2016 Convocation of the College of Fellows—considered the 2015 Synod on the Family in relation to our American context and explored the family in the USA from a variety of perspectives, seeking to more deeply understand the Church’s teaching on the family with an aim to discern how to creatively and faithfully apply it in our culture today.

For more information about the College of Fellows, visit

The Family in the USA- A Socio-Economic Description – Nicholas Wolfinger

There is a profound marriage gap in America.  Among adults aged 18-45, 30 percent of those without four-year college degrees are currently married, compared to 59 percent for those who've completed college.  Yet the overwhelming majority of people desire marriage, at at least 80 percent will probably marry in their lifetimes.  But they'll spend far less of their lives married compared to Americans in previous years.

Forty percent of children are now born out of wedlock.  This explains why single mothers are five times as likely to be poor compared to married mothers, a figure that's stood for 35 years or more.  This is surprising given women's dramatic gains in the workplace.  But 35 years ago most single mothers were divorce women.  Divorced women demographically resemble married mothers fairly closely (minus a husband's income). Women who give birth out of wedlock are completely different. They work less, make less money when they do work, have less education, and face innumerable other challenges. They're far more likely to have been poor before they give birth out of wedlock, and often grew up in nonintact families themselves.
Religion produces many positive family outcomes. Regular churchgoers are less likely to give birth out of wedlock, more likely to get married, have happier relationships whether or not they're married, and divorce less.  This is the focus of my recent book Soul Mates (visit for more information).

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