How To Use The Factbook

Welcome to the Factbook, an organized collection of research on family we put together when I was writing Why Do I Love These People? I wanted a clear and realistic picture of the state of family today, which meant also comparing it to what family life is like in other countries and what family life was like in our past. Toward that end, we wrote memo after memo on various topics, synthesizing facts, statistical data and opinions. We have almost 100 of these memos online. They vary in length from a single page to over 20 pages. Those memos are the core of The Factbook.


There are several ways to navigate the Factbook’s memos.

From the organized Table of Contents (if you’re trying to get a big picture all that’s available here).

From the Topic Index for the Casual Browser (an alphabetical list with terms you’d find familiar)
From this page, on which follow narrative descriptions of some memos. This is the user-friendly page, but incredibly incomplete.

In addition, at the top of each memo are links to related memos.

If you came looking for the sources to the "Halftime" chapter in the book, go here.

The Factbook draws from over 600 different source materials and is several hundred pages long. If you want to see the list of sources, go here.

Almost every memo incorporates information from cultures around the world. But if you are seeking a perspective on what family life is like in a particular region, work from this list off the Table of Contents.
If you’re interested in the history of romantic love, try this memo. If you’re interested in the history of marriage – and why we started recording unions in the first place – take a tour through our marriage memos. The first is a glimpse of marriage traditions around the world, from what makes a good spouse to arranged marriages, while the second has marriage rates and other statistical information. If you’re interested in those who aren’t married, please take into account the marriage delay, as well as the rise of cohabitation, which is our memo on Unmarried Partners. You might also want to check out how we have rethought what it means to be a Grown Up. The picture that emerges would not be complete without understanding how families fall apart. Don’t just look at Divorce in a global perspective – please also consider Family Dissolution.
There are two ways to look at families from the point of view of the children who are being cared for by those families. The first is a narrower focus on the stress issues of the day – how we make ends meet, if barely. You should read all these memos: Caregivers in the Workforce, Child Care, Single Parents, Keeping Up With the Joneses. The memo on How People Spend Their Time is one of my favorites, a quick snapshot on where our time goes. But before you go spouting off at a cocktail party about what you’ve learned, you should also get some perspective about what this strain is like in other countries and in our past. Check out Demographics on Children, Modern Child Development Concerns, Children At Risk, Children in Ancient History, and Children in Modern Europe and American History.
Contemporary conversation about family surrounds some buzz topics. These memos were written in a “ripped from the headlines” frustration, as we felt the need to respond to stories in the media that lacked perspective. Definitions of Family, for instance. Same-Sex Partners and Families. Stepfamilies. Moving Back Home, or so-called Boomeranging, is another. Adoption. Childless by Choice. Single Parents. The role of Grandparents is on people’s mind, just as we wonder what ever happened to Multiple Generation and Extended Family Households. But perhaps the overall issue is the question “Is the Family in Decline?” Also read our media analysis on how this issue is played out in the press. And anyone who has read my book has heard the message that our perception is distorted by our tendency to idealize certain notions of family. Please read this memo on how we have idealized visions family over the decades, and will continue to do so in the future. And if you wonder if the kind of lifestyle that we saw in Ozzie and Harriet still exists, it certainly does. And nowhere better exemplifies this than Naperville, Illinois. Read our memo on Ozzie and Harriet Land.
But really, once again, all this needs some perspective. Some of our best memos track the evolution of family by period: Colonial through 1899. 1900 through WWII. Modern Era. Then, you should understand some major tectonic shifts that always affect families. You'll be surprised how interesting you find memo on Birth Rate & Fertility. Aging. Poverty. Urbanization. Migration. The Rise of Suburbia. These are huge macro forces that shape our experience of family. And don’t overlook something as simple as how Housework gets done, since it defines family roles considerably.
This has been only a partial list, leaving nearly half of the memos out. If you’re looking for something you haven’t found, try either the alphabetical Topic Index for the Casual Browser, or the organized Table of Contents.
And if you're interested in learning about the creators of The Factbook, here's some information on its authors.
Po Bronson

The Factbook was created with Circus Ponies' Notebook.