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Americans Worry More About the Economy than Teen Sex and Substance Abuse, Says New Survey

Americans increasingly say economic concerns are among the most important issues facing families, including the costs…

  • September 30, 2019

Americans increasingly say economic concerns are among the most important issues facing families, including the costs associated with raising a family and high work demands and stress on parents, according to the Deseret News.

The fifth annual American Family Survey, released recently, compared responses to the first survey conducted in 2015 and also found that cultural issues such as sexual permissiveness and substance abuse have become less likely to be named a top concern for families.

“It’s telling that even at a time when the economy is strong, people are still concerned about the cost of raising a family, while cultural issues are no longer as relevant to them,” said Deseret News spokesperson Boyd Matheson. “While five years is a short period of time and may not reflect a real trend, the survey’s new findings are an interesting development and something we will be watching closely, especially if the country shifts into a recession in the next couple of years.”

The survey revealed other changes in trends about the family over the last five years, including:

People consistently think their own marriages and family are staying the same or getting stronger. But in general, they think American families and marriages are getting weaker.

The broad contours of family life and relationship status remain the same as in previous years. Just under half of the adult public is married, though this varies somewhat by demographic group. For instance, more Republicans are married than are independents and Democrats.

There was a slight drop in the number of people who say marriage is needed to create strong families. In 2015, 62% said this was true. This year, 54% said so.

There was a slight growth in the number who say marriage is old-fashioned and out of date. Whereas 18% now say that, 12% did in 2015. Changes in these questions are most pronounced among the youngest Americans, but an overwhelming majority of Americans still say marriage is important and have positive views of the institution generally.

Most people do get married, most still want to get married and most are happy in their marriages. But there continues to be a pattern of economic and social status relating to marriage.

The wealthy and the educated marry more easily — about six in ten of those making about $40,000 a year are married. However, the number falls to only three in ten of those making below that amount of money.

Another hint of change is in relationship status: In 2015, a little over half of respondents were married and about 30% were not in a relationship at all.

By 2019, 48% were married and those with no relationship rose to 34%.

The frequency with which families do certain activities together is pretty stable, with slightly more having dinner together.

Republicans and Democrats display similar patterns in terms of family life, though there is also a widening gap between them when it comes to worshiping together as a family, with Republicans growing more likely to say they do this while Democrats become less likely to say so.

The American Family Survey is an annual, nationwide study of 3,000 Americans by the Deseret News and the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University and conducted by YouGov.

Now in its fifth year, the survey seeks to understand the experiences of Americans in their relationships, marriages and families, and how those experiences relate to a variety of public policy issues.

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