U.S. Social and Economic Trends on Worrisome Track, Survey Finds

By Wetzstein, Cheryl | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 24, 2014 | Go to article overview

U.S. Social and Economic Trends on Worrisome Track, Survey Finds


Wetzstein, Cheryl, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Abortion and divorce rates are falling, but the United States is falling behind on a growing number of other measures of prosperity and social health, according to a report released Wednesday by a conservative think tank.

Taken together, the Heritage Foundation's first Index of Culture and Opportunity finds that America has moved deeper into troubled territory in the last 10 years.

While data do not "equate" with destiny, this new index is intended to show "where we are now as a nation and to strengthen our resolve to get America back on track," wrote Jim DeMint, president of the Heritage Foundation and former South Carolina senator.

The goal is to show how cultural and economic activities shape America -- and help or hinder opportunities for people to achieve the "American dream," said Jennifer A. Marshall, vice president for the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity at Heritage Foundation, and report co-editor.

Heritage researchers looked at 10 years of national data to track trends in 31 areas.

Eight areas showed improvement over 10 years: Divorce, abortion and violent crime rates all fell. The percentage of American families dependent on the federal welfare program also fell. Also, the Heritage survey noted that rates rose for charter school enrollment, private school choice participation, high school graduation and job openings.

However, 23 measures were struggling or headed on "the wrong track," the report said.

For instance, despite several positive trends in education, there were unsatisfactory results on reading proficiency and student loan debt.

Culturally, the rates for marriage, total fertility, religious attendance and volunteering declined. Teen drug use rose, as did birth rates for unwed mothers and the number of single-parent households.

In the poverty and general economic opportunity categories, the index found discouraging trends for labor force participation, use of welfare programs like food stamps and subsidized housing, and unemployment. …

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