The “Family Miracle” Behind Utah’s Prosperity

July 21, 2023 | Brad Wilcox, Patrick T. Brown, Jenet Erickson
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A recent ranking of states by economic performance puts Utah at number one, confirming what some social scientists have called the state’s “economic miracle.” Likewise, multiple studies have also concluded that it is the happiest state. Brad Wilcox, Patrick T. Brown, and Jenet Erickson suggest that its success may stem from social factors:

The strength of “the Utah way” can be attributed, in part, to the state’s unique civic, religious, and political endowments, including unusually high levels of social capital and low levels of government regulation. But Utah’s material and emotional success is also attributable to the strength and stability of its families.

No state in the union has as many men, women, and children in married households as the beehive state. In 2021, 55 percent of adults in Utah (ages 18-55) were married and 82 percent of its children were living in married-couple families. This compares to a national average of 45 percent of adults married and 75 percent of kids living in married families. What could be called the “Utah family miracle” matters because social science tells us that one of the strongest predictors of a state’s economic success is strong families.

Recent research . . . indicates that one of the top predictors of economic performance across the states is the share of married parents. . . . Poor children in the Salt Lake area, for instance, are much more likely to be raised in a two-parent family and to be surrounded by peers from two-parent families than poor kids in other metro areas.

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