A new study by the Heritage Foundation finds hopeful trends in some American cultural indicators, but discouraging news on other fronts.
The 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity, released yesterday by the Washington-based think-tank, points to favourable trends in the US abortion rate, divorce rate, charter-school availability, and job openings. However the analysts also see bad news in the rates of marriage and fertility, the rise in the number of single-parent households, dips in volunteerism and religious attendance, declining reading levels, and increases in student-loan debt, unemployment, taxation, and government regulation.
Click here to read the overview. The survey is divided into three sections: Culture Indicators, Poverty and Dependence Indicators, and General Opportunity Indicators. And the findings... May we have the envelopes please?
RIGHT TRACK: Divorce Rate, Abortion Rate, Violent Crime Rate, all going DOWN. Total: 3
WRONG TRACK: Marriage Rate, Total Fertility Rate, Single-parent Households, Teen Drug Use, Abstinence Among High-schoolers, Religious Attendance, Volunteerism. Total: 7
Poverty and Dependence Indicators
RIGHT TRACK: TANF Participation. Total: 1. Yes, Walt needed to look this one up. TANF = Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Yep, there's a federal program for that -- a couple of them, in fact.
WRONG TRACK: Labour Force Participation (fewer people are working), Unwed Birth Rate (70% in the black community), Self-Sufficiency, Total Welfare Spending, Subsidized Housing Participation, Food Stamp Participation, TANF Work Participation (means needy families will take the handouts but don't want to work for them). Total: 7
General Opportunity Indicators
RIGHT TRACK: Charter School Enrolment, Private School Choice Participation, High School Graduation Rate, Job Openings Rate. Total: 4
WRONG TRACK: Reading Proficiency (first noted by Rudolf Flesch in 1951, still going down. duhh), Student Loan Debt, Employment-Population Ration (fewer people are working -- again), Unemployment Rate (ditto), Job Hires Rate (ditto ditto), Money Taxed Away by Federal Government (surprised?), Start-up Job Share, Major Federal Regulations (up again), Economic Freedom (the opposite). Total: 9
Walt's trusty calculator makes the grand totals: Right Track - 8; Wrong Track - 23. By a ratio of nearly 3:1, America is headed in the wrong direction. That is how the hope and change thing is working out.
The Heritage Foundation summarizes the policy implications of its findings thusly:
Policy should be formulated on the basis of sound principles and data. The indicators included in this Index help to identify obstacles to opportunity in order to help citizens and policymakers focus on cultural efforts and policy solutions that will best address these challenges.
•Pursue policy that promotes life, marriage, and religious liberty.
•Promote limited government and respect the role of civil society, particularly its norms that are conducive to strong individual and community outcomes.
•Advance welfare reform that encourages self-sufficiency through work rather than dependence on government.
•Promote student-centered education reforms that allow for choice.
•Pursue higher education reform that tackles issues of cost and quality by allowing greater innovation.
•Reduce Americans’ tax burden.
•Pursue tax and regulatory reform to restore an environment that is conducive to entrepreneurial job creation.
Further reading: Click here to download the entire report, as a .pdf file,