By JACK BREWER
Center for Opportunity Now
Lawmakers should follow the data and the science because they will eventually point them to the truth. Statistics in the United States don’t lie – the number of religious Americans and families with a father in the home is on a rapid decline. Without Christ, we will not see these trends reserved. As a former NFL player, I had to deal with statistics a lot during my time in the league. I came to understand that while statistics do not always offer to predict exact results, compiled data usually provides at least some indication as to future performance and how we can expect things to play out during the next game.
Today, I have noticed a few troubling statistics regarding the decline of Christianity and the rise of fatherlessness in America. As our country moves forward, these numbers could have serious consequences for the future of our country if we don’t reverse these trends. Only about 65% of American adults identify as Christian today, according to Pew Research. This number is down 12 percentage points over the last decade. Additionally, only 47% of American adults belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque in 2020, which was down more than 20 points since the turn of the 21st century. Church membership in America was at 73% when Gallup began collecting its data in 1937.
Furthermore, our nation is seeing great discrepancies when these numbers are broken down by age. Just 49% of millennials describe themselves as Christian today, while more than 80% of the Silent Generation and 76% of Baby Boomers do so. Only 22% of millennials say they attend church at least once per week, and almost two-thirds say they attend church services a few times per year or less. Some models estimate that America’s Christian population could fall to as low as 35% by the year 2070 if these trends continue.
America’s decline in faith has largely mirrored a decline in fatherhood. In 1960, only about 9% of American children grew up without a father in the home. Today, that number is around 25%, for a total of 18.4 million children absent a father in the home (the number is over 24 million or 33% for children absent a biological father in the home). This is over 3 times the world average and the highest rate of children living in single-parent households of any country in the entire world.
The statistics also tell us that fatherlessness is a heavy indicator with a wide range of adverse outcomes for a child’s future. For example, 90% of all homeless and runaway children come from fatherless homes, as well as 85% of children and teens with behavioral disorders and 63% of teens who commit suicide.
Studies also indicate that fatherless children are more likely to drop out of school and to repeat a class than children with both parents in the home. Fatherlessness also relates to criminality, as about 70% of all the youths in state-operated institutions come from single-parent homes. Overall, fatherless children are more likely to be incarcerated than children from two-parent homes and more likely to exhibit criminal behavior.
Deep down, Americans understand this data and realize that fatherhood is essential to a stable society. According to survey data from Scott Rasmussen, 84% of Americans believe a strong family is foundational to a strong America, and 65% agree that children who grow up fatherless are at a significant disadvantage in life. Along those same lines, another 84% think that parents, rather than the community, bear the primary responsibility for raising children, and 67% believe that the decline of the family is harming America’s growth and prosperity.
If these trends continue, our country’s very future could be in jeopardy. Faith and family are two of the most sacred values in our society. As they both decline, we expect many other issues to follow. Rising crime and drug use, failing education systems, and so much more will only continue to proliferate as America’s faith declines and family formation disintegrates.
In the NFL, when we didn’t like the statistics in front of us, we called an audible and changed the play. At the end of the day, it just came down to hard work. That’s true of our country too, and it’s up to all of us to call an audible and lead the charge in returning to a society based on faith and family – the things that matter most.
Jack Brewer serves as chair of the Center for Opportunity Now and vice-chair of the Center for 1776 for the America First Policy Institute.