Institute for Family Studies

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The Institute for Family Studies (IFS) is a think tank which promotes right-of-center policies intended to improve family formation and child care. The institute also supports conservative perspectives towards marriage and family structure. In addition to research and advocacy, IFS tracks statistics such as birth rates and income levels in different types of families. 1


Institute for Family Studies was established in 2009 to sponsor research and programs that advanced right-of-center perspectives on marriage and family life. The organization was known as the Ridge Foundation until 2013. The institute is based in Charlottesville, Virginia. 2


Institute for Family Studies publishes reports and briefs that bring attention to issues affecting families in the United States and the rest of the world. The institute also promotes books that advance right-of-center perspectives towards marriage, family structure, and gender roles.


Institute for Family Studies publishes a series of “Regional Reports” that identify trends in marriage and family life at the local and state level. The reports suggest that different family structures – specifically, two-parent, single-parent, and cohabitation – have a “significant” effect on societal issues such as educational outcomes and economic disparities. The institute’s “National Reports” also assess these trends, but from a nationwide perspective. 3

IFS releases an annual “World Family Map” which reports on issues affecting families on a global scale. Each year, the institute focuses on a particular issue that impacts family life, such as religion, employment, or health. IFS also publishes a “Home Economics Report” every year. These reports aim to promote the benefits of marriage and two-parent family formation to leaders in business, politics, and academia. 4


Institute for Family Studies briefs draw attention to issues such as marriage rates and sexual practices, and analyze differences between single-parent, cohabiting, and two-parent households. These briefs emphasize the positive benefits of heterosexual marriage and premarital abstinence. 5


Institute for Family Studies features several books on marriage and family life. Soul Mates by IFS senior fellow Brad Wilcox and sociology professor Nicholas Wolfinger argues that church attendance improves the lives of black and Hispanic couples. Gender and Parenthood by Brad Wilcox and child psychiatrist Kathleen Kline discusses the complementary roles of biological mothers and fathers, as well as the impact of parenting practices on children. Manning Up by IFS contributing editor Kay Hymowitz analyses societal forces impacting young men’s development. The Power of Commitment by IFS senior fellow Scott Stanley promotes married couples staying together. 6


IFS research has been cited in major publications on both the right and left. A February 2018 Forbes article cited IFS statistics on divorce rates among single fathers. 7 In May 2019, the New York Times published an opinion piece by IFS senior fellow Brad Wilcox and two other writers discussing a study which suggested that religious conservative couples had higher-quality relationships than liberal and secular couples. 8 The Christian Science Monitor and left-of-center Huffington Post have both previously cited the institute. 910


Michael Toscano is the executive director of IFS. He previously worked as director of development for foundations at The King’s College, a Christian liberal arts college in New York City. He also served as director of research projects at the National Association of Scholars and program officer for policy initiatives at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. 11

Wendy Wang is the director of research at IFS. She previously worked as a senior researcher for the Pew Research Center. Wang earned her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. 12 Bradford Wilcox is a senior fellow at IFS. He is also the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Wilcox earned his Ph.D. from Princeton University. 13 He was also the first president of IFS. 14


Institute for Family Studies has come under attack from left-of-center organizations for promoting heterosexual marriage. Right Wing Watch (RWW), a project of the socially liberal People for the American Way, cited the institute’s work as an example of social science research making the case against same-sex marriage. RWW also claimed that a study on same-sex parenting to which IFS senior fellow Brad Wilcox had contributed to was flawed. 15

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which targets right-of-center organizations, made a passing reference to Wilcox and IFS when Wilcox went on the radio show of Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC). The SPLC has labeled the FRC, a social-conservative advocacy organization, a “hate group.” 16


Since the Ridge Foundation became IFS in 2013, annual revenue has increased from just over $300,000 to just under $750,000 in 2019. 17 From 2013 to 2019, the institute received between $50,000 and $75,000 per year from the right-of-center Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. 1819


  1.        “Strong Families. Sustainable Societies.” Institute for Family Studies. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  2.             The Ridge Foundation, Inc., IRS Form 990, 2012. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  3. “Reports,” Institute for Family Studies. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  4.    “Reports,” Institute for Family Studies. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  5.    “Briefs,” Institute for Family Studies. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  6.               “Books & Articles,” Institute for Family Studies. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  7.             Helen Thomson, “Single Fathers At Increased Risk Of Premature Death, Perhaps Due To Unhealthy Lifestyle,” Forbes, February 14, 2018. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  8.        W. Bradford Wilcox et. al., “Religious Men Can Be Devoted Dads, Too,” The New York Times, May 18, 2019. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  9.            Stephen Humphries, “Why some couples are bonding, not breaking, during pandemic,” Christian Science Monitor, January 7, 2021. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  10.        Ann Brenoff, “You’ll Never Guess Who Is Having The Most Extramarital Affairs,” Huffington Post, July 7, 2017. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  11.     “Our People,” Institute for Family Studies. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  12.   “Our People,” Institute for Family Studies. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  13. “Our People,” Institute for Family Studies. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  14.    The Institute for Family Studies, IRS Form 990, 2010. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  15.   Miranda Blue, “Meet The Anti-Gay Foundation Behind The Utah World Congress Of Families,” Right Wing Watch, October 28, 2015. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  16.             “Anti-LGBT roundup of events and activities 5/25/18,” Southern Poverty Law Center, May 25, 2018. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  17. “The Institute for Family Studies,” ProPublica. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  18.         “2013 Annual Report,” The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, 2013. Accessed January 26, 2021.
  19.        “2019 Year in Review,” The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, 2019. Accessed January 26, 2021.
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