Abstract: Pro-family policies are essential to reduce strain on the family and improve family stability. This paper will look into Pro-family policies while focusing on the United States of America. America ranks within the top 15 in the Human Development index. However, their family policies still have room for improvement. In order to analyse the pro-family policies in the country, the paper will briefly look into the history of the pro-family movement in the nation and discuss policies regarding four important issues that have a direct impact on the family- increasing the minimum wage, supporting reproductive rights, expanding health facilities and expanding the child tax credit. It will also discuss the state of pro-family policies in India.
Family is the primary unit of society and perhaps the most important one. According to Lamanna and Reidmann, “a family is any sexually expressive or parent-child or other kin relationship in which people are usually related by ancestry, marriage or adoption (Gandhi, 2020). However, there is no single definition of family that fits all types. The concept of family is dynamic in nature and keeps changing. Family Policies are those policies which directly affect families (Nieuwenhuis & Van Lancker, 2017). Such policies generally take the form of social programmes, laws or other public directives that usually promote aspects of family life like marriage, reproduction and child rearing. They attempt to resolve family conflicts and include child protection and child and spousal support (“Family Policy | Encyclopedia.com”, 2020). Family policies keep changing in lieu of the fact that the definition of family itself keeps evolving and the Government goals and ideals keep changing with every term. Although certain organisations may initiate family policies, it is generally the State that puts in place such policies.
Policies that auger well for the family or Pro-Family policies are essential for the growth of the society. The pro-family movement is a group of social movement organisations that push for policies that favour family values. The movement around the world has become powerful and is today an extremely impactful one. To begin with, it has played an active role in strengthening the LGBTQ+ communities and championing women’s rights issues like abortion and paid leave (Seidman, L. Fischer & Meek, 2011). However, pro-family policies still remain to be a bone of contention amongst politicians today. While most of them agree that the family is an important unit of society; they also oppose policies that help the family. Research carried out in America shows that there is a direct link between family stability and family policies. States that adhere to conservative policies like low minimum wage, restrictive healthcare facilities and limited reproductive rights fare worse on family stability indicators than their counter parts with more progressive approaches (Gallagher Robbins & Fremstad, 2016). Insufficient resources and financial stress causes more conflict and instability in the household. Paul Amato in his book, Alone Together: How Marriage in America is Changing, found that “lower levels of income, educational attainment, and occupational prestige were associated with higher rates of marital problems, less marital happiness, and greater instability” (Gallagher Robbins & Fremstad, 2016). Children generally adapt well and can survive in various family situations. However, financial stress and family instability have been directly linked to behavioural problems and lower academic outcomes (Gallagher Robbins & Fremstad, 2016). Most families go through various financial and emotional challenges and pro-family policies aim to reduce such burdens. Restrictive policies would cause added strain on the family which could lead to its eventual break up.
The United States of America
The HDI or the Human Development Index is an index that is used to rank countries based on human development (World Population Review, 2020). The indicators used to score the countries include per capita income, expectancy and education. A Nation having higher levels of income, education, etc. will score higher on the index; the highest being 1.0, while those with lower levels will score lesser. The United States of America Ranks 13th on the HDI with a score 0.924 as of 2020 (World Population Review, 2020).
Dubbed as the most powerful country in contemporary times and the richest nation, America is seen as a model country for others lower in the Index. The Great American Dream is harboured by millions world over and to make it big in America is seen as the ultimate goal. This becomes extremely hard to achieve without a stabile domestic environment and lawmakers have only recently realised the importance of a stable family in the Great American Dream. The pro-family movement has been partly successful in incorporating its issues into the agenda of the State. However, despite the efforts of various activists, America has comparatively restrictive family policies when compared to other countries.
Growth of the Movement in America
Although the pro family movement first began in the 1970’s in the United States of America, it took impetus only in the 1980’s when it’s citizens became more aware about the society they live in. Two major movements, the Equal Rights Amendment Act from the 1970’s and the Gay Rights fight in the late 1970’s led by Anita Bryant were responsible for the conception of the pro-family policy movement (Seidman, L. Fischer & Meek, 2011). An increasing number of families being torn apart due to domestic issues and other societal pressures led to the formation of the White House Working Group on the Family which was chaired by Gary Bauer (McCabe, 2019). This was followed by the publication of a report by the President from the White House Working Group on the Family. The recommendations of the reported included policies to provide financial stability for families. By the end of the 1990’s, the pro family movement which had begun in the 1970’s by a group of conservative Christians became a powerful political force which had a great deal of influence over the Lawmakers (Seidman, L. Fischer & Meek, 2011). Critics claim that the pro-family movement was simply a hidden agenda to separate the Church and the State in America (Seidman, L. Fischer & Meek, 2011). However, various important issues were addressed in the movement by multiple organisations for the betterment of domestic life.
Pro-family Policies in America
Studies across various states in America showed that on average, “the divorce rate is 28 per cent higher, the infant cent higher, and the share of children who live with neither parent is 17 per cent higher in states mortality rate is 32 per cent higher, the birth rate among women ages 15 to 19 is 50 per with conservative stances pro-family policies compared with states with progressive stances on the same policies” (Gallagher Robbins & Fremstad, 2016). Family policies like paid family leave, affordable and good quality child care, etc. are essential for the maintenance of healthy families. However, despite scoring high on the HDI; America still has a lot left to do when it comes to improving their family policies. In fact, America is the only developed nation where paid leave is not compulsory and is given only on the discretion of the employer. While the Medical Leave Act of 1993 or the FMLA provides only some parents with the right to unpaid leave for up to 12 week, most others are not entitled to these benefits (Ruhm, 2011). Increasing the minimum wage, supporting reproductive rights, expanding health facilities and expanding the child tax credit will show positive results with regard to the family.
Fair compensation for work and a stable work environment increases the chances of starting and maintaining a strong and healthy family (Gallagher Robbins & Fremstad, 2016). Financial security is important to ensure healthy family relationships. The current minimum wage in America stands at 7.25 USD per hour under the Minimum Wage Bill passed in 1938. Approximately over 30 million workers earn minimum wage in the country. In recent times, despite an increase in the level of education received, working-class men in the country have seen a decrease in their wages in real terms while working-class women earned better in relative terms but still earned much lesser than their male counter parts (Gallagher Robbins & Fremstad, 2016). Tracking of marriage trends since the 1970’s showed a decline in the marriage rates of working-class men who were victim to declining real wages and women who showed very little rate of growth in terms of their wages (Gallagher Robbins & Fremstad, 2016). An increase in the minimum wage rate from the existing 7.25 USD per hour would lead to an increase in the financial resources of millions of young and unmarried Americans, thus providing them with the financial stability required to raise a family. More people today are in favour of the Raise the Wage Act and Donald Trump, the current President of America has plans to increase the minimum wage to 15 USD per hour under the new Minimum Wage Bill which is to come into effect in 2024. Reports from the Congressional Budget Office show that raising the minimum wage would help nearly 15 million workers.
The landmark Roe v. Wade judgement in the 1970’s ruled that the woman had rights over her body and so abortions were made legal in the country. The decision was a positive step towards family welfare. Although reproduction is legal throughout America, it’s restrictions and limits differ from state to state. Restrictions and other barriers over reproductive rights of the woman reduces the ability of families to plan their childbearing and thus hinders the family planning process (Gallagher Robbins & Fremstad, 2016). Pro-families policies that support reproductive rights of women allow mothers to plan when to have children if at all they decide to and this has been linked to higher levels of educational attainments and lifetime earnings for women (Gallagher Robbins & Fremstad, 2016). Some families might not be financially or emotionally capable to care for a child at that given point or as in some cases, continuing with the pregnancy might be dangerous for the mother and lead to loss of life of either the foetus or the mother. This could add additional pressure on the family which would have negative effects. Therefore, increasing the availability contraceptives like birth control would in fact strengthen families.
Ensuring good and affordable healthcare facilities to its citizens is one of the main responsibilities of the state. Uncertainty regarding provision of affordable healthcare has a detrimental effect on the people. Lack of such facilities would cause stress and heavy financial burdens. Lower healthcare facilities leads to lower health outcomes and family instability (Gallagher Robbins & Fremstad, 2016). Although more Americans today have health insurance compared to earlier times, there still remains a staggering 3 million adults without health insurance because most states in the US do not have inclusive Medicaid policies that cater to the lower income groups (Gallagher Robbins & Fremstad, 2016). Adults that fall below the poverty levels do not have access to health facilities despite the state having access to funds that would easily cover such costs. This however, varies from state to state, based on state policies (Gallagher Robbins & Fremstad, 2016). Expanding healthcare facilities to would thus relive millions of Americans of such burdens.
Raising a family is an expensive affair and family policies need to provide support in order to make the process of child rearing easier. The American Family Act provides tax credit for all its citizens that earn less than 150,000 USD per annum and all married citizens that have children and earn less than 200,000 USD per annum. Government estimates show that this amounts to approximately 10,000 USD per annum for most families (McCabe, 2019). Policies that provide cash benefits for such families will ensure that parents utilise this money on their children, therefore, providing their children with better facilities. Senators like Brown and Bennet have proposed plans along with the Rubio-Lee proposal for the expansion of the child tax policy in the American Family Act (McCabe, 2019). Head Start which was launched in 1965 provides “compensatory education and other services to low-income and disabled pre-school children” (Ruhm, 2011). The Child Care Development Fund or the CCDF was implemented in 1996 in order to look after the welfare of children of the States (Ruhm, 2011). Under the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, parents from low income families can receive an amount of 3,000 USD as tax credit in order to care for two or more children that fall under the age of 12 (Ruhm, 2011).
India and Pro-family Policies
India is a country with a population of over 1 billion people. Its people are its biggest strength. However, the government is not doing enough for them. India ranks low on the Human Development Index and in my opinion; India’s pro family policies are better on paper than in reality. The implementation of their progressive, pro-family policies has been faulty and flawed and has thus not been as affective. A significant number of people live in poverty in the country and cannot afford to fend for themselves. While the Government has in place health care policies like ModiCare or the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) which was put in place in 2018 in order to provide health insurance of over 500,000 INR for Indian Citizens, a large part of our population still remains neglected (“15 Healthcare schemes in India that you must know about”, 2018). India spends a mere 1.4 per cent of their GDP, lower than countries like Nepal which are economically poorer when compared to India (“15 Healthcare schemes in India that you must know about”, 2018). India is one of the worse of countries when it comes to child rearing. Despite Acts like The Right to Education Act which provides free and compulsory education for children between the ages of 6 to 14 years being passed, the quality of education received by these students under the Act remains sub-par. India’s Minimum wage Act set the minimum wage at a meagre 176 INR per 8-hour workday. This is barely enough to sustain a family even if it is a dual-income household. However, the silver lining remains in their humane approach towards progressive policies like the abortion laws which legalise abortion under certain circumstances throughout the country despite a number of countries ranking high in the HDI failing to do so. That said, India must increase their spending on its citizens and introduce more affective policies while ensuring better implementation of the same.
When the State considers the interests of its citizens and puts forth policies that encourage healthy and happy families, it also encourages stable families. Countries like India and the United States of America have a lot to learn from countries like Hungary where divorce and abortion rates have consistently fallen due to the State’s efforts to support the family by creating a better environment for them through their pro-family policies. Policies must be targeted and flexible in order to ensure success. Introducing policies that auger well for the family will increase the quality of life of the people. Countries can build and improve on their existing policies in order to make them more effective and inclusive. It is only when the state has the citizens best interests in mind and puts the family first will they reap positive outcomes and its citizens truly flourish.
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