World Family Map

Executive Summary

by Laura H. Lippman & W. Bradford Wilcox

The family is a core social institution that occupies a central place in the lives of men, women, and children around the world: It isRead More »

World Family Indicators

General Methods

Selecting indicators: Indicators were selected by the study team along with advisors representing every region of the world using a research-based conceptual framework of family strengths. Four groups of indicators were generated in these domains: family structure, family socioeconomics, family process, and family culture. Indicators were chosen for each domain based upon their importance to family and child well-being, data availability, regional representation, and in order to achieve balance in the number of indicators across domains.

Selecting countries: When designing this report, it was necessary to select a set of countries that could be included across indicators as well as in the essay on living arrangements of children and their education outcomes. While it was not possible to include all of the approximately 200 counties in the world, countries were selected to ensure regional representation of high, middle, and low income countries, and data availability for the desired time period was considered as well, resulting in 45 countries. As data availability on key indicators of family well-being increases, the World Family Map will be able to include more countries.Read More »

Data Sources

Country-level Sources

When data were not available from an international source, country-level data sources were sought. Examples include data from national statistic bureaus and country-level surveys.

Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS)

DHS is a survey of over 90 low-income nations, focusing on population and health information. This report uses the most recent data available for each country, ranging from 2001 to 2011.Read More »

Family Structure

Key Findings: Children’s lives are influenced by the number of parents and siblings that they live with, as well as by whether their parents are married. The World Family Map reports these key indicators of family structure in this section.

  • Although two-parent families are becoming less common in many parts of the world, they still constitute a majority of families around the globe. Children under age 18 are more likely to live in two-parent families than in other family forms in Asia and the Middle East, compared with other regions of the world. Children are more likely to live with one or no parent in the Americas, Europe, Oceania, and Sub-Saharan Africa than in other regions.
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Family Socioeconomics

Key Findings: Socioeconomic indicators measure the material, human, and government resources that support family and child well-being. The socioeconomic indicators highlighted in this report include poverty; undernourishment (as a marker of material deprivation); parental education and employment; and public family benefits.

  • In this study, poverty is calculated as absolute poverty (the percentage of the population living below $1.25 a day) or as relative child poverty (the percentage of children living in households earning less than half the median household income in a country). The proportion of absolute poverty in the countries in our study ranges from zero in several countries to 64 percent in Nigeria. The proportion of relative poverty for children ranges from six to 33 percent, with the lowest rates found in Asia, Europe, and Oceania, and the highest rates found in South America.
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Family Processes

Key Findings: Family process indicators describe the interactions between members of a family, including their relationships, communication patterns, time spent together, and satisfaction with family life. Data on family processes are challenging to obtain in a way that allows for international comparisons, but this situation is likely to improve in the next few years as new data are released. Here are some examples of indicators of family processes that can influence child and family well-being: family satisfaction; agreement or disagreement over household work; social and political discussions; and family meals together. While few countries had data on these measures, there was wide variation across the countries that did have data available.

  • Between 31 percent (Russia) and 74 percent (Chile) of adults around the world are completely or very satisfied with their family life (8 countries with information)
  • Between 55 percent (Russia) and 88 percent (Philippines) of couples report low levels of disagreement around household work (8 countries)
  • Between six percent (South Korea) and 39 percent (Argentina) of 15-year-olds discuss political or social issues with their parents several times a week (25 countries)
  • The percentage of 15-year-olds who eat meals with their families varies widely throughout the world, ranging from 62 percent in Israel to 94 percent in Italy (25 countries)

Family Satisfaction

Family satisfaction both influences and is influenced by family structure, economics, and culture. The International Social Survey Program (ISSP) from 2002 provides data on this indicator for only a handful of countries. So, unfortunately, information in this area is quite limited.Read More »

Family Culture

Key Findings: Family culture refers to the family-related attitudes and norms that are expressed by a country’s citizens. Data suggest that adults take a range of progressive and conservative positions on family issues.

  • Acceptance of voluntary single motherhood varies by region, with adults in the Americas, Europe, and Oceania leaning more towards acceptance (with a high acceptance rate of 80 percent in Spain), and countries in Asia, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa leaning more towards rejection (as evidenced by an acceptance rate of only two percent in Egypt and Jordan).
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This first edition of The World Family Map has reviewed indicators of family well-being in four areas: family structure, family socioeconomics, family process, and family culture, as well as the relationship of one indicator of family structure— children’s living arrangements—to education outcomes for countries representing all regions of the world. The report specifically explores the links between family structure and children’s reading literacy, grade repetition, school enrollment, and expected grade for age, even when other possible socioeconomic factors that often explain differences are taken into account (for example, parental education, family wealth, and parental employment).

The rationale for choosing each indicator of family well-being was based upon evidence of its relationship to child well-being outcomes in prior (mostly Western) research. A key task of families is to raise children, and this report highlights strengths as well as weaknesses in family patterns across the globe, based upon what is known from the research literature on what promotes and protects healthy child and adolescent development. Regional patterns in the family indicators are striking, but there is also tremendous variation within regions. And family wealth, along with other indicators of family socioeconomics, appears to be a critical characteristic in determining whether and how family structure relates to education outcomes.Read More »