Institute for Family Studies

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The Institute for Family Studies (IFS) is a conservative "think tank" which, according to its website, has the expressed mission "to strengthen marriage and natural family and advancing the well-being of children through research and public education."[1] Research from IFS and its employees are frequently cited and published in both conservative outlets such as National Review [2] and more mainstream ones, like the Washington Post.[3]. "IFS is a successor to the Ridge Foundation, through which Bradley and others used to support Wilcox's National Marriage Project."[1] The Institute for Family Studies says that its "commitment is rooted in the social-science fact that children are most likely to thrive when they are raised by their own married biological parents. The underlying premise of its work is that families and communities, freedom and prosperity, and the political order itself -- both at home and abroad -- are all critically dependent upon the existence of a strong healthy, pervasive marriage culture among the citizenry."[4]

IFS is also an associate member of the State Policy Network (SPN), a web of state pressure groups that denote themselves as "think tanks" and drive a right-wing agenda in statehouses nationwide.

News and Controversies

Association with an "infamously flawed study of same-sex parenting"

Brad Wilcox, a senior fellow at the Insitute for Family Studies, was a researcher for a study which, according to People for the American Way, was "infamously flawed." The study was regarded in 2014 as an "attack on same-sex parenting" by People for the American Way. [5]

Ties to State Policy Network

IFS is listed as an associate member on the State Policy Network (SPN) directory.[6]

SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 50 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom. As of October 2019, SPN's membership totals 162. Today's SPN is the tip of the spear of far-right, nationally funded policy agenda in the states that undergirds extremists in the Republican Party. SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told the Wall Street Journal in 2017 that the revenue of the combined groups was some $80 million, but a 2019 analysis of SPN's main members IRS filings by the Center for Media and Democracy shows that the combined revenue is over $120 million.[7] Although SPN's member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, the Center for Media and Democracy's in-depth investigation, "EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government," reveals that SPN and its member think tanks are major drivers of the right-wing, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-backed corporate agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders.[8]

In response to CMD's report, SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told national and statehouse reporters that SPN affiliates are "fiercely independent." Later the same week, however, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer caught Sharp in a contradiction. In her article, "Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?," the Pulitzer-nominated reporter revealed that, in a recent meeting behind closed doors with the heads of SPN affiliates around the country, Sharp "compared the organization’s model to that of the giant global chain IKEA." She reportedly said that SPN "would provide 'the raw materials,' along with the 'services' needed to assemble the products. Rather than acting like passive customers who buy finished products, she wanted each state group to show the enterprise and creativity needed to assemble the parts in their home states. 'Pick what you need,' she said, 'and customize it for what works best for you.'" Not only that, but Sharp "also acknowledged privately to the members that the organization's often anonymous donors frequently shape the agenda. 'The grants are driven by donor intent,' she told the gathered think-tank heads. She added that, often, 'the donors have a very specific idea of what they want to happen.'"[9]

A set of coordinated fundraising proposals obtained and released by The Guardian in early December 2013 confirm many of these SPN members' intent to change state laws and policies, referring to "advancing model legislation" and "candidate briefings." These activities "arguably cross the line into lobbying," The Guardian notes.[10]

Ties to the Koch Brothers

In 2013, Ashley Mcguire, a contributing editor at IFS, wrote an article for IFS praising David Koch for his reaction to the Massachuttes Institute of Technology to build a daycare center. "This most recent investment is pro-family and pro-child and worthy of praise." [11] McGuire has done fellowships with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.[12]

Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.

Ties to the Bradley Foundation

IFS founder W. Bradford Wilcox "is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia and a Member of the James Madison Society of the Bradley-supported James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University."[1] In addition, he is "a visiting scholar at the Bradley-supported "American Enterprise Institute," and he "is very helpfully advising those creating the new Barder-supported Family Prosperity Index of the American Conservative Union's Center for Human Dignity."

IFS hired Richard A. Brake as its president. "Brake came to IFS from the Bradley-supported Intercollegiate Studies Institute where he was vice president for undergraduate education and directed its civic literacy and free enterprise initiatives."[1]

Bradley Files

In 2017, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publishers of SourceWatch, launched a series of articles on the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, exposing the inner-workings of one of America's largest right-wing foundations. 56,000 previously undisclosed documents laid bare the Bradley Foundation's highly politicized agenda. CMD detailed Bradley's efforts to map and measure right wing infrastructure nationwide, including by dismantling and defunding unions to impact state elections; bankrolling discredited spin doctor Richard Berman and his many front groups; and more.

Find the series here at


The "philanthropic sources of support" for IFS "include several strong Bradley Allies, among them: the Achelis & Bodman, Chiaroscuro, Earhart, GFC, Hertog, Arthur Rupe, and Vine and Branches Foundations.

Partial funding for the IFS comes from the following donor:

  • The Bradley Foundation gave $200,000 between 2014-2016 for "General Operating Support."
    • Conservative Transparency reports that the Bradley Foundation gave $50,000 in 2013 to the IFS [13]
    • In addition, Bradley gave the following amounts to the Ridge Foundation, an organization of which IFS is "a successor": $30,000 in 2012 "to support writing, administration, and dissemination of research related to marriage in the United States" and $20,000 in 2011 "to support the National Marriage Project." [1]

Core Financials


  • Total Revenue: $455,258
  • Total Expenses: $527,079
  • Net Assets: $149,505


  • Total Revenue: $510,855
  • Total Expenses: $444,124
  • Net Assets: $221,326


  • Total Revenue: $460,791
  • Total Expenses: $473,853
  • Net Assets: $145,595


  • Total Revenue: $316,288
  • Total Expenses: $304,297
  • Net Assets: $167,657



As of June 2018:[18]

  • Richard Brake, President
  • Wendy Wang, Director of Research
  • Alysse El Hage, Editor, 'Family Studies' Blog
  • Bill Coffin, Senior Fellow
  • Laurie DeRose, Senior Fellow
  • Robert I. Lerman, Senior Fellow
  • Charles E. Stokes, Senior Fellow
  • Scott Stanley, Senior Fellow
  • W. Bradford Wilcox, Senior Fellow
  • Nicholas Zill, Senior Fellow
  • Lyman Stone, Research Fellow
  • Amber Lapp, Research Fellow
  • David Lapp, Research Fellow
  • Kay Hymowitz, Contributing Editor
  • Ashley E. McGuire, Contributing Editor

Board of Directors

As of March 2017:[14]

  • Jeffrey R. Adams, Director
  • Jeremy Beer, Director
  • Fred Clark, Director
  • Greg Ridenour, Director
  • John Stanley, Director
  • Rebecca Horner, Director
  • Richard Hough, Director and President

Contact Information

Institute for Family Studies
P.O. Box 1502
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Phone: 610.733.4804

Related SourceWatch Articles

External Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Bradley Files, [on file with CMD], Bradley Files, 2014
  2. National Review search for IFS on NR National review, accessed June 2018
  3. Washington Post search Washington Post, accessed June 2018
  4. Bradley Files, [on file with CMD], Bradley Files, 2015
  5. Miranda Blue Regnerus Study Backer Acknowledges That Marriage Equality Creates Family Stability Right Wing Watch, June 13, 2014
  6. State Policy Network Institute for Family Studies State Policy Network, accessed June 2018
  7. David Armiak, Revenue for State Policy Network and State Affiliates Tops $120 Million], ExposedbyCMD, November 13, 2019.
  8. Rebekah Wilce, Center for Media and Democracy, EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
  9. Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
  10. Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
  11. Ashley McGuire David Koch Does Daycare Institute for Family Studies, Oct. 23, 2013
  12. Becket Ashley McGuire organizational website, accessed June 2018
  13. Conservative Transparency Institute for Family Studies American Bridge 21st Century, accessed June 2018
  14. 14.0 14.1 Institute for Family Studies, 2016 IRS Form 990, ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer, March 22 2017.
  15. Institute for Family Studies 2015 IRS Form 990, ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer, November 11, 2016
  16. Institute for Family Studies 2014 IRS Form 990, ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer, Nov 2014.
  17. Institute for Family Studies 2013 IRS Form 990, ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer, November 17 2014.
  18. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named about