Catherine R. Pakaluk

Economic theory can help explain the rapidly increasing set of trends harming the "natural family," said Catherine R. Pakaluk, an assistant professor of business and economics at Ave Maria University.

"The natural family is a man and woman partnered for life in a sexual partnership plus their naturally conceived offspring," she said. "The demise of the family refers to a collection of trends rapidly increasing … [including] children born out of wedlock, lower rates of marriage, later ages at first marriage, increase in cohabitation, divorce and decreasing marital fertility [birth rates]."

Pakaluk used the tenants of some economic theories to explain these trends, which have been predominant beginning in the 1960s with the explosion of birth control pills.

"You want to think about things that are affecting people's choices … (and) if there are a set of basic goods people are interested in, we can tell you how people will choose," she said. "Rockets don't know the laws of physics but act as if they do. Similarly, humans do not make all decisions in a … detached way but often look as if they do. Economic models can reduce man to an intensely rational agent pursuing a narrowly defined set of goods."

Similar to anti-smoking campaigns, Pakaluk said if society is concerned about the family individuals need to undertake the massive cultural project of "re-normalizing the natural family" by recognizing the choices people take for granted and propagating the positive image that "marriage can work for a lifetime."

— Chase Larson