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July 6, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The United States and Canada are low on a list of 46 countries in a new study by two pro-family organizations rating cultures by how supportive and sympathetic they are to the traditional, natural family.

The Novae Terrae Foundation’s Luca Volonte said he was “somewhat astonished” at how far down the two countries were but told LifeSiteNews that this could be ascribed to the fact that only national social programs were compared, which short-shrifted federal states where the bulk of social programming is provided by regional governments.

The Independent Global Index on Family is a collaboration between the Novae Terrae Foundation and Catholic University of Milan. Its analysis measured 19 variables, most of which were objective, such as divorce, marriage and fertility rates, the percentage of women in the workforce, and presence of maternity and paternity leave and daycare. But it also compared responses to survey questions about intergeneration family trust and concern for aging parents.

The index, which put the United States 29th and Canada 36th among the 46 countries selected, was led by Northern European countries with well-established social support systems (including former Soviet Bloc members such as Lithuania, Estonia and Russia), plus Israel and, anomalously, Malawi.

The sole African nation to score highly was buoyed by what the index called “structural” factors — a high percentage of the adult population is married, with many children, and little divorce.

Conversely, the Northern European index leaders are given poor structural scores — low fertility rates and marriage rates showing a lack of interest in the traditional family and its main characteristics, selfless, loving procreation and raising of children who then turn around and care for parents out of loving gratitude.

The report is apparently aimed at government policy makers. Its authors argue that “both society and the state have a legal obligation to support the family in the task of giving birth to children and educating them to live as responsible citizens and contributors to the community in a way that promotes individual human flourishing and the overall common good of society.”

It gives considerable weight to the welfare structures in place such as state-funded daycare, statutory parental leave, and employment levels of both women and youth. All of the index leaders rated highly in this category.

It also compares countries by the attitudes their adults toward their families. All of the countries scoring more than .6 out of 1.0 on the overall index placed highly on the  “social resources” or attitudinal index, compared with, for example, .56 for the United States (ninth from the bottom) and .39 for Canada (fourth from the bottom.)

The leading countries also mostly scored well in terms of economic resources (employment rates, wage levels) and social support systems.

Canada and the United States did well in economic opportunities but fell far short in most other categories, although the United States did better in terms of “structural” measures such as marriage and fertility rates than Northern Europeans. Canada did better than the United States, but worse than the leaders, in terms of what the report termed “contextual” supports such as state-funded day care, but it showed both a lower fertility rate and level of trust in the family.

Canada and the United States also scored lower than European countries in terms of providing “family associations” through both advocacy and mutual-help groups.

In addition to the index, the report comments on the poor support that governments in Europe give the traditional family, claiming specific references to it in official statements are usually negative. “The traditional model emerges as a convenient polemical stereotype,” it states, “while it should be considered not as a historical model but as a cultural universal, not subject to degeneration and not considerable in evolutionary terms.”

The study will be repeated every two years. Volonte said European countries might be forced for budgetary reasons to cut back on social programs while other countries expand such programs as they realize the importance of the traditional family.

Download the full Global Family Index report here.