Star Parker: Our Changing Values Should Worry Us

The late historian and political philosopher Harry V. Jaffa noted the significance that the preamble to our Constitution concludes with the words “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

This is how the drafters of our Constitution saw its purpose.

Jaffa continues, saying, “a blessing is what is good in the eyes of God. It is a good whose possession … belongs properly only to those who deserve it.”

In light of this, let’s consider a just-released Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that appeared under the headline “Americans Have Shifted Dramatically on What Values Matter Most.”

“Patriotism, religion and having children rate lower among younger generations than they did two decades ago,” the headline continues.

Of all surveyed, 61 percent “cited patriotism as very important to them, down 9 percentage points from 1998, while 50% citied religion, down 12 points. Some 43% placed a high value on having children, down 16 points from 1998.”

Among those ages 18-38, 42 percent cited patriotism as “very important”; less than one-third cited having children; and 30% cited “religion, belief in God.”

The founders of the country saw the nation’s existence, its faith and its posterity as a package deal. It all went together.

Now we have a young generation, our future, that dismisses the importance of all the elements of that package. What might this tell us about where we’re headed?

The operative questions are: Does the country have a future, a posterity, without children? And will there be children if there is no marriage and family? And will there be marriage and family if there is no religion and God?

Recent statistics provide pretty gloomy answers to these questions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the lowest birth rate in 32 years last year. It was the fourth consecutive year with a decline in the U.S. birth rate.

And the fertility rate, the number of births per 1,000 adult women, has been dropping every year and is well below the replacement rate — the fertility rate needed to keep the population from shrinking.

Regarding marriage, over the last half-century, the percentage of U.S. adults who are married has dropped 31 percent.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 1960, 72 percent of adults in the U.S. were married. By 2016, this was down to 50 percent.

The decline in the percentage of Americans saying religion is “very important” in their life is identical to the decline in the percentage of married Americans.

In 1960, 70 percent said religion was “very important,” and by 2018, this was down to 50 percent, a 20 percent decline.

Although Americans continue to feel free — 87 percent, according to Gallup, are satisfied that they can freely live as they choose — a minority now sees this liberty as a blessing, in the sense that Harry Jaffa explains the word in our Constitution. That is, “what is good in the eyes of God.”

As the sense of the importance of faith and religion diminishes, the values and behaviors that go with them — marriage and children — also diminish.

There are important practical implications on our posterity.

Fewer children means an aging population. More retirees per everyone working means more pressure on the payroll tax, each dollar of which must be distributed to more and more retirees.

The population over the age of 55 accounts for more than half our health care expenditures. As the percentage of the population over 55 increases, our health care expenditure burden will increase proportionately.

And, with the collapse of family, more elderly Americans will be living alone.

If you think this picture is gloomy, the good news is nothing is inevitable. We’re still free, and we can change course.

Different discourse in the public square, policies consistent with seeing liberty as a “blessing,” can be advanced. But the starting point must be seeing something wrong with the status quo.



StarParkerBCNStar Parker is the founder and president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education. Contact her at

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  1. Ahh, me dawlin’ Star, scary stuff. “What might this tell us about where we’re headed?” Running down that greased slope to the ‘ash heap of history.’

    I think I’ve noted that these may actually have been your stats from several years ago; as I no longer recall where I read them. They do correlate to those declining marriage numbers you provide here. They also are from what many consider “The Bad Ole Days” in America – but be NOT so quick in determining our “overall” state of affairs:

    In 1960, barely 2 percent of all American children, from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, lived with a never married parent. By 2008, 41 percent of black children, 18 percent of Hispanic children, and 7 percent of white children lived in a home with an unmarried parent. REVIEW, closely, that 2% of ALL living with a never married parent compared to the abominable state our children are in today!

    Truly, “what might his tell us about where we are headed?” Star, you are far more optimistic about getting our country turned around and once again embracing our LONG AGO strong family structure than am I. From a formerly more religious society, America has ‘devolved’ to a completely secular one. We have ‘spawned’ at least two generations of narcissists, lacking moral guidance, self-absorbed(is that redundant?), having no respect for authority, agnostic toward any Higher authority, no respect for life, indoctrinated vice educated, no respect for others, and worse, little to no respect for themselves.

    No society can survive without the underpinning of a strong, vibrant, TWO parent, God fearing, family structure. Once man has decided there is no authority greater than his own, he is unrestrained in perpetrating any EVIL his conscious-less mind might envision. Unheard of, just fifty-odd years ago, that kids were killing other kids in near genocidal numbers; that 62 million are dead through abortion; that over 50% of marriages had ended in divorce; and on and on with our cultural decline. America has LOST the culture war.

    Maybe we did not hear about the ‘craziness’ back in the good ole bad days, as we do now with 24/7 blood reporting, but there is no denying America’s cultural collapse. I miss those “bad days,” when people rarely thought, if at all, about the need to go ARMED – now, I’m ARMED 24/7! We now allow the clinically, and criminally insane to walk amongst us. How is that working out?

    This could go on into book form; however, I will finish by saying, I don’t see how America/Americans get this iceberg headed good ship America turned around – Billy Graham said it best, “Only God can change the hearts of man!”

  2. Elizabeth Chappelle

    Ms. Parker,

    Your columns hit home with me. You are a powerful voice. Keep writing!

    Elizabeth Chappelle