So what do I believe is happening to black America? In order of causality and importance:
I am inclined to think that the systematic dismantling of the black family in America is the single most important factor in the relative stagnation of aggregate black living standards. This is certainly not an original thesis, but there is merit in learning the underlying data in order to defend the position.
According to CDC, the out-of-wedlock birth rates in 1964 for white and black children were 7 % and 25 %, respectively; currently those rates are 29 % and 72 %, respectively. Similarly, according to statistics compiled by the Annie E. Casey’s Kids Count program, 67 % of black children currently live in single parent households, compared to 25 % for white children. So, 7 in 10 black children are raised without the stability and security of a two-parent environment. Which parent is most absent in the black community? The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that black single-mom households outpace single-dad households by 4 to 1.
Put all of these data together, and we get confirmation of what our common sense tells us: black fathers have eroded away in our society over the last fifty years, leaving their biological children without suitable masculine role models. Left to fend for themselves on this impossible mission, black mothers have little choice but to become effective wards of the state, in order to literally receive their daily bread. Without the benefit of a positive father figure, black children will seek leadership, acceptance and a sense of normalcy in the form of gangs, drugs and promiscuity.
Why did this happen? Complacency? Intention? While I believe that many folks who see the welfare state as a force for good in society are genuine (and at some level I would agree there is a place for emergency subsistence), there are enough politicians needing votes or media hounds craving attention to advocate for more, not less, of this dysfunction. They know that by ripping away the very core of civil society, the family, they can create dependencies within and constituencies of, their targets. They are making out like bandits, which is what they are.
According to data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics, more than a third of black high school students fail to graduate. Washington D.C. has the second worst overall graduation rate in the country (60 %), despite expending $22,000 per pupil per year, nearly twice the national average. The education system is failing all of us, but black Americans the most of all.
“In school year 2011–12, some 3.1 million public high school students, or 81 percent, graduated on time with a regular diploma. Among all public high school students, Asians/Pacific Islanders had the highest graduation rate (93 percent), followed by Whites (85 percent), Hispanics (76 percent), and American Indians/Alaska Natives and Blacks (68 percent each).”
And post-secondary education prospects are just as bad, or worse.
“In 2013, some 34 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds had earned a bachelor’s or higher degree. Between 1990 and 2013, the size of the White-Black gap at this education level widened from 13 to 20 percentage points, and the White-Hispanic gap widened from 18 to 25 percentage points.”
Minnesota has the fourth-highest overall graduation rate in the nation (88 %), but by the Minneapolis Public School system’s own admission, in minority-rich Minneapolis the overall graduation rate is barely 50 %, and for black students is an embarrassing 37 %.
Just as stable families, or lack thereof, affect how children approach and are successful at school, education in turn affects success in the workplace…
EMPLOYMENT & EARNING POWER
This short and sweet “FactTank” article by the Pew Research Center points out that black unemployment as been a steady 2x that of white unemployment since as far back as the data were reliably recorded starting in the 1950’s. In October 2014, the black-white unemployment ratio remains spot on at 10.9/4.8 %. The 2014 BLS report (page 7 and Table 18) lends additional insight into the status of black earning power: median weekly earnings of black workers lagged white counterparts by 22 %, regardless of the type of work.
“Among the major race and ethnicity groups, Hispanic and Blacks continued to have considerably lower earnings than Whites and Asians.”
Of course, same-job comparisons can be confounded by educational qualifications and tenure, but such an explanation simply begs the question about why black employees don’t enter the workforce at the same time, or with the same pedigree as white employees. Additionally, single-mom households simply have fewer employment opportunities:
“In general, families maintained by women without a spouse present are less likely to have an employed family member than married-couple families and families maintained by men.”
Money and comfort perhaps, but a threat to their very lives? You bet…
According to the latest statistics to be compiled by the CDC, black women are three times more likely to have an abortion than white women (25.3 versus 7.6 abortions per 1,000 women, respectively)– a racial gap that is double what is was in the 1980’s. Although overall abortion rates have declined since the 80’s, over 730,000 abortions were reported in 2011. Black women who may have given into the false messages of promiscuity and contraception can find themselves pregnant and alone; having lost out on the complimentary support of an intact marriage they will become desperate to regain control over their lives, through abortion.
(It is astounding to learn that in 1992 there were 135 abortions per 1,000 women in Washington D.C. — the 2011 number is down to the still-despicable national average of 26/1000)
Just yesterday I listened to the EconTalk podcast of November 24 in which University of Chicago Professor Emily Oster describes the curious disadvantage of the American infant mortality rate versus our economically-comparable European counterparts. Well, it turns out that, as described in Dr. Oster’s latest paper on the subject, a large portion of this disparity is related to race and socio-economic condition, and correlated to lack of familial and other support for new mothers. This makes sense in a less secure, single parent household where money is tight and the false promises of a paternalistic State don’t help prepare disadvantaged women for motherhood.
“So for example among black women with less than a high school education in Cook county—which is basically the south side of Chicago—the infant mortality rate in this period [postneonatal months 1-12] is about 16 per 1000.” Professor Emily Oster, EconTalk November 24, 2014
“This postneonatal mortality disadvantage is driven almost exclusively by excess inequality in the US: infants born to white, college-educated, married US mothers have similar mortality to advantaged women in Europe.” Oster et al, Why is Infant Mortality Higher in the US than in Europe?, in press
There can be other aspects of daily life that are effects of some of these basic problems–life is a tapestry of such things. Comments are welcome. In Part 3 I’ll discuss and suggest the practical Catholic response to the bleak prospects of the black family and their ultimate success in America.