Executive Summary

Section 1: Culture


“Both the Founders and the most insightful analysts of the kind of government the Founders created have understood well that the preservation of the regime of individual rights requires a healthy moral culture. Religion, the family, and the spirit of private, voluntary association are essential to fostering the virtues of character that alone can sustain a free government dedicated to the protection of the rights of individuals.”
–Carson Holloway, “The Culture of Freedom



“The challenge will be to reform the welfare system further to get work incentives right…. Welfare reform will require recognizing the economic realities faced by those who are in need and reforming welfare to ensure that it promotes self-suffi ciency rather than undermining it by discouraging work.”
–Douglas J. Besharov and Douglas M. Call, “Declining Labor Force Participation and the Expanding Social Safety Net



“School choice can play an important role in helping families achieve economic mobility. Whether through vouchers, tuition tax credits, education savings accounts, charters, homeschooling, magnets, online options, or interdistrict or intradistrict open-enrollment programs, choice-based reforms reposition parents at the heart of their children’s education and opportunity.”
–Anna J. Egalite and Patrick J. Wolf, “Achieving Economic Mobility Through School Choice


Summary Observations

Culture matters, as observed by several of the Index’s commentators. High schoolers in an achievement-oriented environment are more likely to avoid risk behaviors and make healthy choices for their future. Communities that champion marriage will see stronger families and better well-being for their children. And those who place educational choice in parents’ hands can expect to see improved student outcomes. A culture that values mutual aid among its citizens and the inherent dignity of work and self-sufficiency will be less dependent on the government and more upwardly mobile. Freedom and opportunity depend on the character of the culture.

  • Pursue limited government that encourages the role of civil society agents and organizations.
  • Promote student-centered education choice options.
  • Teach and reinforce, throughout high school, sexual risk avoidance and healthy relationship skills and messages.
  • Advance comprehensive welfare reform, focusing on restoring self-sufficiency through work and eliminating work disincentives in social safety-net programs.
  • Reduce governmental regulations that impede entrepreneurship and the growth of small businesses.
  • Identify and study effective and successful strategies and approaches.


2015 Index of Culture and Opportunity

The Social and Economic Trends that Shape America

    Heritage Foundation

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    A think tank devoted to the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.

    2015 Index of Culture and Opportunity

    The Social and Economic Trends that Shape America