Sutherland Newsletter – May 31, 2007

1.Family is Most Important Factor in Child’s Academic Achievement

What is the single most critical factor in the academic achievement of children: socioeconomic status, family structure, or the resources of home and school?  Judging from a study involving more than 6,000 schools in 32 countries by Gary N. Marks at the University of Melbourne, being reared in an intact family helps children the most to achieve their best.




Marks looked at data on more than 172,000 fifteen-year-olds tracked in the 2000 version of the Program for International Student Assessment of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  He found that students who were living with both parents had consistently higher reading and math scores than their peers from other living arrangements.  No statistically significant effects were found in any country showing such students having lower test scores relative to their peers from broken families.  Yet students living with single parents had significantly lower reading scores in 18 countries and significantly lower math scores in 21 countries.  Their peers in stepfamilies had significantly lower reading scores in 26 countries and lower math scores in 21 countries.




Given the global nature of these findings, a natural question is why don’t the U.S. educational establishment or the politicians, both of whom claim to be concerned about “the children,” warn parents of the educational risks to their children when they decide to live outside the bonds of marriage?




(Source: Gary N. Marks, “Family Size, Family Type, and Student Achievement: Cross National Differences and the Role of Socioeconomic and School Factors,” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 37 [Winter 2006]: 1-24.  Reported in the May 29, 2007 edition of Family Update, Online!, a publication of The Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society.)


2.The Roll of Tolls in Financing 21st Century Highways

The Reason Foundation’s newest policy paper, The Roll of Tolls in Financing 21st Century Highways, by Peter Samuel, is a primer on highway finance.  Two recent events suggest that many transportation policy makers don’t really understand what long-term road concessions are all about.  Earlier this month, Texas legislators passed an ill-conceived moratorium on any new concession deals.  And on May 10, the respective chairs of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Highways and Transit Subcommittee sent an amazing letter to all 50 state governors and other officials warning them not to enter into such agreements that “can undermine the national highway system.”




These developments make this policy paper very well-timed as it lays out the increasing limitations of the 20th century fuel tax/trust fund/grants model.  It also explains why it makes sense to finance, rather than pay cash for, long-lived infrastructure such as major highway, bridge, and tunnel projects.


3.Transcend Series Concludes with “Civility in our Culture and Politics”

Register now for the third and concluding session of the 2007 Sutherland Transcend Series on Thursday, June 14.  Sutherland Institute President Paul T. Mero will lead our discussion of“Civility in our Culture and Politics.”   Participant response to his facilitation of similar sessions over the first three years of the Series has been outstanding.  We look forward to anotherstimulating dialogue in June.




Individuals who pre-register by June 6 will receive by postal mail a copy of Yale law professor Stephen Carter’s excellent book, Civility, recommended as preparatory reading.  Beginning at8:30 am and concluding at 1:00 pm, this half-day session will include a light breakfast and a working lunch together.




To register for the June 14 session of the award-winning Sutherland Transcend Series, please call 801-355-1272, or visit  The participation fee is $50 per session.  Payment may be made with cash, check, or Visa/MC prior to the event or at the door.  As seating will be limited, we encourage you to register soon.