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 is

  • a source of support, and sometimes an obstacle, to individual and collective achievements;
  • a unit of economic production and consumption;
  • an emotional haven that can sometimes be a source of emotional strain; and
  • a vehicle for extending caregiving and culture across the generations, for better and for worse.


by Mindy E. Scott, Laurie F. DeRose, Laura H. Lippman, and Elizabeth Cook


This section of the report examines the role of one important aspect of family structure, children’s living arrangements, for their educational achievement and attainment in countries across the world. Prior research—mostly on the US and Europe—suggests that children who grow up without one or both parents in the household are at risk for a host of negative educational outcomes.1 This essay builds on this research to explore whether this finding holds true in all regions of the world by asking the following questions:

  • How does living with one parent or neither parent compare with living with two parents on a range of educational outcomes in both lower income countries (mostly in the southern hemisphere) and middle- and high-income countries (mostly in the northern hemisphere)?
  • Do individual and family background differences, and children’s attitudes about school and relationships with teachers, help to explain why children who do not live with two parents experience worse educational outcomes than those who do?
  • Are there important differences in the relationship between living arrangements and children’s education between major world regions?



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. READ MORE »


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. READ MORE »


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. READ MORE »


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. READ MORE »


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. READ MORE »


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. READ MORE »


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). READ MORE »