Numbers don’t always tell the entire story, but they can still reveal a whole lot.

New data released yesterday from the U.S. Census Bureau shows why so many American children and families are struggling, and why more government handouts won’t do much to help.

According to the “America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2022” report, just 47% of American households contain a married mother and father. Back in 1970, 71% of homes were headed by a married couple.

Breaking the percentages into actual number of families, there are 80 million “family households” in the U.S. The Census data reveals 15 million of them are headed by single mothers and six million by single fathers.

Study after study continues to confirm that children fare better in every aspect of life when they grow up with a married mother and father. Conversely, boys and girls reared in single-parent households are more likely to suffer from depression, struggle academically and socially, marry later, and see their chance of divorce rise significantly.

University of Virginia professor Dr. Brad Wilcox, author of Get Married, writes:

Marital quality is, far and away, the top predictor I have run across of life satisfaction in America. Specifically, the odds that men and women say they are ‘very happy’ with their lives are a staggering 545 percent higher for those who are very happily married, compared with peers who are not married or who are less than very happy in their marriages.

When it comes to predicting overall happiness, a good marriage is far more important than how much education you get, how much money you make, how often you have sex, and, yes, even how satisfied you are with your work.

In short, the very best thing we can do for children is to foster a healthy and happy marriage with our spouse.

It’s become common to refer to growing up in a happy and healthy family with a married mother and father as living in a Leave it to Beaver type environment – a reference to the iconic television program of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Based in Mayfield, aka suburban “Anytown USA” America, it featured Hugh Beaumont and Barbara Billingsley as Ward and June Cleaver, and their sons Wally and Beaver, played beautifully by Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers.

Elites like to dismiss or deride the depiction of life inside the Cleaver home as a time that never existed. It’s true the show was fiction, and that few mothers wore pearls while cooking and cleaning. I also don’t know of many fathers who wore a coat and tie to dinner, but that doesn’t diminish the premise of the program.

It also doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still strive in our families for the harmony inside the Cleaver home.

Leave it to Beaver and other programs like it normalized marital happiness. The Cleavers had their struggles; we knew they loved each other, rooted for one another – and were loyal to the end. Yes, all the problems were minor, and those problems were conveniently solved in thirty minutes. But there is great value to such depictions because it puts forth an ideal to reach for, even if it may ultimately be just beyond the grasp.

Fans of “Beaver” may not know that the real-life Jerry Mathers actually prayed for his television father, who in real-life was an ordained minister. As it was, the pilot for the program featured another actor playing Jerry’s father. Unhappy with the chemistry, producers decided to look for another actor. Mathers had worked with Beaumont on a promotional film, liked him, and told his mother just much he liked the man. Jerry’s mother, Marilyn, relayed news of the opening to the future Mr. Cleaver.

The night before the audition, as Jerry said his nighttime prayers, the young actor prayed, “Please God make the actor I worked with today my father in the new series.”

Jerry Mathers’ prayers were answered.

We’d be wise to pray for the stability and sustainability of the family, which remains the foundation on which all of society and culture rests.


Image credit: IMDb