Scientific Study: If You’re Going to Have a Large Family, It’s Good to Be Mormon

Tonight was the first time I heard about a study done in 1998 on the issue of large families and resource dilution. The results suggest that being Mormon is especially good for your kids if you’re going to have a lot. Here is a summary taken from a news item at

Among Mormons, the addition of new children to a family doesn’t have the same negative educational effects seen in most of the population, according to a study led by Douglas Downey, assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University.

“Our results suggest Mormons have found ways to devote more resources to their children as family size increases,” Downey said. “This helps their children continue to achieve academically.”

In a 1995 study published in the American Sociological Review, Downey found that academic achievement among children dropped as family size grew because parents had less time and economic resources for each child. “Parents only have so much time and money, and we found that the more children they have, the more those resources are diluted,” he said.

This new study was designed to see if the “resource dilution” explanation held true for groups, such as Mormons, in which large families are accepted and even encouraged. The results of the study showed that Mormon children didn’t display the significant declines in educational performance that other children showed as family size increased. And one reason may be that resources parents devoted to children did not decline as significantly among Mormons as they did among the rest of the population, Downey said.

Now here’s a question: If you’re Mormon and not planning to have a lot of kids, are you wasting a valuable sociological resource?

Hats off to you LDS families who manage to raise a lot of healthy and well educated kids (this is, of course, a subset of large Mormon families, but I think a pretty large subset). It’s a huge amount of work, but thanks for blessing the lives of so many people. I know our society often fails to appreciate the marvelous accomplishment of raising children well, but it’s one of the most valuable skills that can be found among any people. As the Prophet David O. McKay said, no other success compensates for failure in the home.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

3 thoughts on “Scientific Study: If You’re Going to Have a Large Family, It’s Good to Be Mormon

  1. One resource that is often overlooked is the interaction between the children, particularly older and younger children. I’ve seen in large families that the older kids are very mature and responsible and loving from helping care for the younger ones, and the younger ones seem better adjusted, and grow up with such interaction being normal, as it should be….

  2. It’s true that the older kids can help the younger ones. Our 5 year old kindergartener basically taught our 4 year old preschooler to read by playing kindergarten with him when she got home from school. If the oldest ones set the pace I bet the younger ones will very often follow.

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