20 Years After Cairo Conference on Population and Development

Family Life and the Economy

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Last week the United Nations held a review of the 20 years since the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo in 1994.

The meeting looked at population issues ranging from ageing, fertility, mortality, migration and urbanization, the UN explained in a press release.

One feature of the review was a repetition of the UN’s long-standing support for abortion and contraception.

A “Beyond 2014 Global Report” published by the UN prior to the gathering called upon all states to remove all restrictions on “reproductive health and care for adolescents,” which includes contraceptives and abortion.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) also published a report to mark the anniversary of the Cairo conference. A commentary published by the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, long active in UN matters, observed that the report privileged abortion over maternal health.

Promote development

If the United Nations wants to promote economic development and a better life for poorer people, protecting family life would do a lot more than providing even more contraceptives and easier access to abortion.

In January a paper published by Harvard University looked at the factors influencing intergenerational income mobility in the United States. Published by a number of authors, the paper, “Where is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States,” started by observing that the United States is often looked upon as a land of opportunity.

The reality is, however, that there are large regional differences in how many people from a lower income group will succeed in improving their situation.

The paper concluded that there are five factors that have the greatest influence on mobility: (1) segregation, (2) income inequality, (3) school quality, (4) social capital, and (5) family structure.

The authors commented that family structure went beyond the individual level to have an impact on the community. “Children of married parents also have higher rates of upward mobility if they live in communities with fewer single parents.”

In March the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada published a report titled, “The unspeakable link between stable families and prosperity.”

Statistics Canada, the report observed, has published data showing that single parents are more likely to live in poverty. Households with two parents and children only have a 5.7% incidence of poverty. In single female households with children this goes up to 21.8%.

“In a profoundly individualistic culture where we fail to see a purpose for marriage outside ourselves, we find fewer reasons to make our own marriages work,” the report commented.

Yet, success of families and their communities are closely linked, the report insisted.

“The public sector can attempt to act as family when families fail, but this neither promotes human flourishing nor balanced budgets,” the report continued. “Some things are irreplaceable.”

The previous month the institute published a report titled, “The Marriage Gap Between Rich and Poor Canadians.”

“Our analysis shows that marriage in Canada, to an astonishing degree, is linked to income,” the report commenced.

“Canadian policymakers should be concerned about the health of marriage because of its contribution to economic stability and human flourishing,” the report commented. A recommendation that could well be applied globally.

Marriage decline

Back in the United States early in April the Atlantic magazine published an article titled: “Women’s Wages Are Rising: Why Are So Many Families Getting Poorer?”

It noted that despite increased opportunities and wages for women, family incomes are falling for the bottom 40% of families.

One reason that lower-income families are falling behind is the decline in marriage among the poor and working class. More than half of these families are headed by just one parent, the article observed.

Pope Francis recently spoke about the need to support families. In an address on April 7 to the bishops of Tanzania who were visiting Rome, he mentioned the synod on the family to be held later this year.

“By promoting prayer, marital fidelity, monogamy, purity and humble service of one another within families, the Church continues to make an invaluable contribution to the social welfare of Tanzania, one which, coupled with her educational and healthcare apostolates, will surely foster greater stability and progress in your country,” he said.

Pope Francis said that there is hardly a finer service the Church can offer than to witness to “the sanctity of God’s gift of life and to the essential role played by spiritual and stable families in preparing the younger generations to live virtuous lives and to face the challenges of the future with wisdom, courage and generosity.”

As the evidence clearly shows economic development and family life are inextricably linked.

On the Net:

Harvard University paper – http://obs.rc.fas.harvard.edu/chetty/mobility_geo.pdf

Institute of Marriage and Family Canada reports



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Fr. John Flynn

Australia Bachelor of Arts from the University of New South Wales. Licence in Philosophy from the Pontifical Gregorian University. Bachelor of Arts in Theology from the Queen of the Apostles.

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