Cox’s State of the State elevates family and success sequence

Written by Nic Dunn

January 30, 2023

The best chance for happiness in our own lives – and for maximum opportunity for our children – doesn’t come from government programs, but from a commitment to core principles and civic institutions. This was a key takeaway from Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s recent State of the State address, which focused on happiness. 

Speaking to the Utah Legislature and the people of Utah via broadcast, he described the aspects of life that data science confirms correlate the most strongly with a happy life. 

“Real happiness comes from four simple but profound pillars: faith, family, friends, and work that serves others,” the governor said. “It comes from finding real meaning in life, knowing why you are here and what you would die for.”  

Not only do these principles and institutions strengthen happiness – they also create the foundation for well-being and prosperity for Utah’s children. Critical to this foundation is the family. In a key section of his speech, the governor rightly cited the institutional role of families and the long-term benefits of life milestones anchored to education, work and family: 

“Getting upstream of our biggest social issues and costs inevitably starts with stronger families. As you may remember, last year from this podium I proposed the creation of a new Office of Families. I am pleased to report back that the Office of Families is now operational with my talented, former opponent in the 2020 governor’s race, Aimee Winder Newton, leading the charge. In Utah, we haven’t forgotten the simple truth that when families win, we all win — economically as well as socially. There is no guesswork here. The data shows that married, family-connected Utahns earn more, produce more, save more, and contribute more than their counterparts. And young people who get at least a high school degree, get a job, marry and have kids — in that order — are far less likely to experience poverty than those who don’t.” 

Graduating from high school, working full-time, and delaying child-bearing until after marriage has become known as the “success sequence.” This is because people who follow that sequence have less than a 3% chance of experiencing poverty. The research has been confirmed by the Brookings Institution, American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies.  

From the AEI report: “Among Millennials who followed this sequence, 97% are not poor when they reach adulthood. The link remains strong when this cohort of young Americans reaches their mid-30s.” 

Focusing on families as a key element of happiness and opportunity for all Utahns is a welcome message from our governor, grounded in sound principle and thorough research. 

It is also timely given the intense debate around HB 215 – Funding for Teacher Salaries and Optional Education Opportunities, which empowers more Utah parents to positively impact their children’s education, further bolstering the family as a critical institution in a child’s learning and long-term prosperity.

Utahns should applaud when messages and public policy from our elected officials – backed by good data and enduring principles – support an environment where key institutions like the family can flourish.

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