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Two-parent families more prominent in northern than southern U.S.

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Add family structure and stability to the list of differences between the northern and southern United States.

According to new research, more children grow up in two-parent homes in the North than in the South.

Bradford Wilcox, a University of Virginia sociologist, and Nicholas Zill, a psychologist, reviewed Census data, to determine if common conceptions about politically conservative states having higher divorce rates were true, and how political and familial ideals worked out geographically, according to The Upshot.

The data found that consistently conservative states — most of which are in the North — had higher proportions of married adults, as well as higher chances of teens growing up with their married birth parents, according to a write-up by the researchers.

But, they also discovered a commonality among blue and red states that cut across political differences. The strongly red (conservative) as well as in the strongly blue (liberal) states were most likely to "provide today's teens with the kind of stable, married family life that fosters optimal child outcomes," the researchers wrote.

They found strong blue states like Massachusetts and Minnesota have high proportions of teens with married parents, with large portions of the populations being highly educated. There are also strong red states like Utah and Nebraska whose families have high percentages of married parents raising teens, and who are "more likely to have deep normative and religious commitments to marriage and to raising children within marriage," the researchers wrote.

"Our bottom line: In understanding the confusing contours of political and family geography, it looks like both education and ideology matter. That's why the bluest and reddest states in America register the highest levels of family stability in the nation," they concluded.

Though there are a lot of strong red states in the West and Midwest, Wilcox believes there are more explorations to be made to continue strengthening marriage and family in the red South, "given the importance of strong and stable families for child well-being and economic mobility in America," he wrote for the National Review.

"A marriage-friendly culture, higher levels of churchgoing and a strong sense of community provide a different route to strong and stable families," he wrote. There are red states that are able to "walk the red-state talk when it comes to family," but there are still plenty of states that need a continual boost in supporting marriage and the raising of children in wedlock.

The debate over whether growing up with both biological parents is the ideal setting for child-rearing is something the researchers looked into.

The success level and stability of those children who grow up with both parents in the home can often be attributed to the increased income that comes from two earners, as well as more consistent parenting in having more than one caregiver in the home, reported the Washington Post on a 2014 study.

"Parents who marry differ from parents who don't in many ways beyond the marriage itself. Today, better-educated, higher-income adults are much more likely to marry. That means their children benefit from the marriage, and the income, and the education of their parents," the Post reported. "And so perhaps it's not that children are better off when their parents marry — it's that the qualities that enable successful marriages also make good parents."

Utah has the highest rate of children raised in a two-parent household at 57 percent; the lowest is Mississippi with 32 percent, according to Wilcox's and Zill's research.

"There is a kind of two-parent arc that starts in the West in Utah, runs up through the Dakotas and Minnesota and then down into New England and New Jersey," wrote The Upshot on the research. "Single-parent families, by contrast, are most common in a Southern arc beginning in Nevada, and extending through New Mexico, Oklahoma and the Deep South before coming up through Appalachia into West Virginia."

Email: mmorgan@deseretnews.com., Twitter: @mandy_morg