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black family

“The Rich Black Kid”

Tags: , , , black family, economy, education, family, family structure, fathers, intact family, MARRI, marriage, Uncategorized No comments

Picture a 4-year-old black boy walking down the street holding his father’s. He is asking his father a question and the back and forth is clearly animated. His father is obviously enjoying it.

This boy is rich.

Picture a 7-year-old black girl helping her mother who is sweeping the porch and asking her to move piece of furniture. The mother is cracking a joke and her daughter is laughing.

This girl is rich.

Picture this girl teaching her younger brother how to play checkers. She lets him beat her and enjoys his yelp of triumph. She lets him know she won’t let him win anymore.

These are rich kids.

Picture their family dinner. It always starts with a short prayer from each member of the family. Each one gives thanks to God for a blessing they experienced that day.

This is family is rich.

Picture the father and mother waving goodbye to their daughter and son as they walk down the sidewalk, going out on their monthly date night. The mother has cracked a joke that has her husband overcome by laughter.

This is a very rich couple.

Their kids are some of the richest children in America.

How many black kids are that rich?

Can we dream of every black child having a father and mother like that? What would it take to have that dream for every black child?

Can we dream really big? Can Black America dream? Can America dream?

What does it take to dream that big?

Can a great nation dream? Can liberals dream? Can conservatives dream? Can religious people dream that dream? Can atheists dream that dream? Can “nones” dream that dream?

Let us have a nation of rich black kids!

Despite declines in religious practice and in marital rates, these two institutions continue to be instrumental to attaining educational, economic, and relational security.

Alternative practices and family structures do not yield the same outcomes.

For the good of the black, the Latino, and the child of every race- the future of America,

Pat Fagan & Maria Archer

Black Income Mobility: Racism or Family Culture?*

Tags: , , , black family, culture, economy, education, income, race, Uncategorized No comments

As a young psychologist in the early 1970s I learned that resolving the conflicts between the married parents led to “spontaneous” recovery for 90% of the children referred to me for treatment — without any direct treatment of the child. Restore order in the parent’s marriage and the children’s internal chaos and its resulting symptoms disappear.

One recent “progressive theme” in today’s discourse is racism targeted at Black Americans. A very good example from some of the best, brightest, and well-intentioned journalists can be seen in this New York Times Upshot article, entitled Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys”.   A similar piece on income mobility by ethnic background, using the same data set appeared a week later.

Before I criticize the direction of the articles because it avoids the most compelling data, let me be loud in my praise of the journalists and the analysis they are doing. It is wonderful. The New York Times must be praised for giving them the resources to do this quality of work. I invite you to use the it, by playing around with variables they make available.

Now let’s look at their case for racism against Blacks

1)    Looking at those who start out in the bottom quintile (the poor) clear ethnic disparities become apparent when I ran the numbers on their site. Black children struggle the most at making it into the “rich” quintile in adulthood and while (37%) stay in poverty (though American Indians do worst at 45%).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2)    Looking at those who start out in the top quintile (the rich) clear ethnic disparities are also apparent: Black children do worst at staying rich in their adulthood.

Is this racism?

The NYT editors clearly think so, given their title for the article “Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys” and by their quoting a professor who preaches this message:

“One of the most popular liberal post-racial ideas is the idea that the fundamental problem is class and not race, and clearly this study explodes that idea,” said Ibram Kendi, a professor and director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. “But for whatever reason, we’re unwilling to stare racism in the face.”

I think the professor should study the articles and the data again: Some of the analysis and one of the charts points to the elephant in the room no one wants to name: marriage. It is politically very incorrect and flies in the face of the “progressive” interpretation of the data.

For instance, the article points out:

“The authors [of the underlying study from which the NYT data is drawn] including the Stanford economist Raj Chetty and two census researchers, Maggie R. Jones and Sonya R. Porter, tried to identify neighborhoods where poor black boys do well, and as well as whites. —The few neighborhoods that met this standard were in areas that showed less discrimination in surveys and tests of racial bias. They mostly had low poverty rates. And, intriguingly, these pockets — including parts of the Maryland suburbs of Washington, and corners of Queens and the Bronx — were the places where many lower-income black children had fathers at home. Poor black boys did well in such places, whether their own fathers were present or not. — The few areas in which black-white gaps are relatively small tend to be low-poverty neighborhoods with low levels of racial bias among whites and high rates of father presence among blacks [emphasis added]. Black males who move to such neighborhoods earlier in childhood earn more and are less likely to be incarcerated. However, fewer than 5% of black children grow up in such environments.”

These neighborhoods are found in parts of DC and Maryland… close enough to where Professor Kendi of American University works.

But not everyone is happy with the implication that marriage might have something to do with it:

“That is a pathbreaking finding,” said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard sociologist whose books have chronicled the economic struggles of black men. “They’re not talking about the direct effects of a boy’s own parents’ marital status. They’re talking about the presence of fathers in a given census tract.”

But here is the stark reality: Marriage is making the difference in virtually every case (for Blacks, Whites, Asian Americans, Hispanics and Whites). Marriage is non-racist: its benefits apply across all races and its absence hurts across all races. But its absence is greatest in the Black family. Add to this the compounding effects of intergenerational marriage-intactness or non-intactness and the power of marriage and the destructiveness of its absence is multiplied.

The huge differences in rates of family intactness are visible in this NYT chart.[1]

On rates of marriage the poorest whites do better than the richest blacks. Poor white boys have a much higher chance of having their father present than rich black boys do. Is this racism?

Here is the national data across ethnic groups, from the American Community Survey (annual mini-census).

    These ratios have remained relatively stable over the last decade, and it is worth noting that the rate of marriage among Black men in 1965 when Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote, The Moynihan Report: The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, was as high, if not higher than in the Asian family today (our most intact ethnic group). The following data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics illustrates the fall in marriage rates by level of education among black men aged 25-54 between 1070 and 2010.

From the analysis MARRI did in 2013 we know that marriage rates between the rich districts and the poverty tracts of the District of Columbia (North West vs. South East, DC) differ almost by 10 times (over 900%).  This chart above shows the increasing family disintegration (black men not marrying) that black children have experienced since 1970.

The NYT journalists are much more circumspect than their editors in drawing conclusions:

“African-Americans made up about 35 percent of all children raised in the bottom 1 percent of the income distribution. They made up less than 1 percent of the children at the very top. This picture captures both a source of racial inequality and a consequence of it. White children are more likely to start life with economic advantages. But we now know that even when they start with the same advantages as black children, white boys still fare better, only reinforcing the disparities seen here.”

But one aspect they left out: when you factor in marriage and family, Black children, on average, do not start life with the same advantages.

Here is what is really going on in large measure: Marital chaos has increased massively in the Black family over the last eighty years, and especially since the sexual revolution. Nobel Laureat Akerlof has published a study at Brookings Institute on this in 1996. Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned about it in 1965 The Negro Family: The Case For National Action, known as the Moynihan Report. (He was vilified for daring to do this report when he was Assistant Secretary of Labor).

The data is incontrovertible. Here is what has happened to Black children since 1940.

Worse still the weakening of human and social capital is compounded over the generations.

Who is to blame? If you want to find blame… One major culprit is the National Organization of Women who very deliberately and vociferously set out to remove men from their families. Nowhere have they succeeded as they have in the Black Family. Yet they and their allies reign supreme in one major political party (and have many friends in the other).

Though no ethnic group is in the “saints” category, Black men and women have the worst track record at getting married and staying married.

Public policy is no great help here: You don’t go to government for love, especially not the tough love that marriage requires.

The Black Church is no help here either. I have addressed Black pastors’ meetings and discussed this with them. They agree. If they speak about marriage teaching what Moses taught, what their grandfathers and great grandfathers taught, and especially what Christ taught (they are Christian pastors) — they would lose their income! Many in their congregations would seek an easier pastor who would not upset the apple cart.

Is this racism? When black adults embrace family chaos? Most people would say they don’t choose it to be so and given their upbringing and early childhood experience within their families there is a lot of truth in that. You cannot choose what you do not experience many would say. But in this discussion, this does not hold. Many people who have not experienced being rich choose to be so and put in the massive effort to pull it off. Are black children urged to make it to the top? In school, in college, at church, by politicians, by the media, by student groups?

Does the same urging and encouragement happen on marriage? Look again at the abysmal rates of marriage among rich Black parents…. It is lower that poor white parents at the bottom of in income scale!

It is not easy to work a way out of cultural weakness. Without a pathway, leadership, and support it is impossible.

It does not take long to go from order to chaos — in anything. It takes a lot longer to go from chaos to order— in everything.

Getting to good kids who turn into strong adults requires the tough, suffering of marriage. Why “the suffering of marriage” — because if marriage was nothing but the effervescence of romance everyone would stay married forever. Learning to live with another, year after year, decade after decade is tough work. It makes for tough character… the requirement for moving up the income scale, staying there and holding onto it.

I pray that Black leaders (in church, in public school education, in the media, in Hollywood, in politics, in student associations, in the academy) stand up together and help each other say what needs to be said and— even more — do the long hard work of rebuilding Black marriages one at a time, generation after generation.

I hope the New York Times team (who were very prudent in their conclusion[2]) will continue their analysis and give us another treat in Upshot, this time including the variables of always-intact-marriage to permit us to analyze the data that way. I bet it will yield much clarity.

Racism has some influence, no doubt, but it is nothing compared to the weakening of black children visited upon them by the absence of marriage, by the absence of their biological fathers.[3] Marriage was one of the great strengths that have not been passed down to them by their parents, pastors and teachers. It used to be there.

Remove the chaos in parent’s marriage and children thrive — no matter the racial group. Leave the marital conflict unattended and the children wilt. Compound it over generations and the situation only gets worse. This is not racism. This is human nature.

For the good of the child – and the black child, the future of America,

Pat Fagan

Director of MARRI

[1] The title and the red inserts in the chart are my own, they are not part of the NYT original chart.

[2] “The research makes clear that there is something unique about the obstacles black males face. The gap between Hispanics and whites is narrower, and their incomes will converge within a couple of generations if mobility stays the same. Asian-Americans earn more than whites raised at the same income level, or about the same when first-generation immigrants are excluded. Only Native Americans have an income gap comparable to African-Americans. But the disparities are widest for black boys.”

[3] Though stepfathers are great and needed even they cannot (on average) cannot have the same impact as the married biological father. Again this is not a racist finding: it holds across ethnic groups. It is a human thing.

*An earlier Faith and Family Findings has more material related to this issue.

 

Family Structure

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In a recent online symposium entitled “Moynihan +50: Family Structure Still Not the Problem” the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF) dismissed family structure as a trivial factor in the social and economic woes of Black families. But federal data paints a different picture: In 2012, only 30 percent of Black 2 year olds lived with their married parents, and only 17 percent of Black 17 year olds grew up in intact families. These numbers are far from insignificant. Contrary to CCF’s claim, Moynihan’s cry for a rejuvenation of intact Black families remains as pertinent and critical today.

The CCF’s report is inundated with straw man arguments and misleading data:

First, the CCF misrepresents Moynihan’s argument. William Chafe incorrectly claims that “Moynihan seemed to suggest that if blacks would only get and stay married they would cease to be poor…” But neither Moynihan nor any other sociologist that I am aware of believes that married families are the one and only end-all solution for all social ills in the Black community. Rather, Moynihan asserted that family brokenness is a significant contributor to poor outcomes, that family structure was being ignored as an important factor, and that no policy proposal that disregards the family would provide an enduring solution. Even Philip Cohen, Heidi Hartmann, Jeff Hayes, and Chandra Childers (contributors to the symposium) concede that “family structure is one key factor that determines the economic resources available to adults and children.” So, if we can agree that family structure is a key factor that is being ignored, it’s quite reasonable to posit that family structure is at the heart of the problem.

Second, the CCF cherry-picks data to make its ideologically-driven point. For example, the CCF claims that family structure cannot greatly influence crime rates because data from the Current Population Survey shows that the share of Black single mothers has risen in past decades while data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (that does not even account for family structure) shows that juvenile violent crime arrests has decreased. This is a poor use of data. Research by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute that ran regressions on specific variables using the American Community Survey found that family intactness is the most important, or at least as important, as any other factor in determining a beneficial outcome. Education attainment, another key factor, is largely related to family structure: most Black adults in their first marriage receive a professional degree, but most always-single adults are high school drop-outs (see graphs below).

The social sciences well done cannot but illustrate the way God made man. Family structure is not the only factor that influences that state of Black families in America, but it is the most encompassing. Good social science has and will continue to uphold the intact, married family as a vital component to social and economic stability.

The Black Family

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“America is free to choose whether the Negro shall remain her liability or become her opportunity.” –Gunnar Myrda, An American Dilemma (1944)

Exactly fifty years ago Daniel Patrick Moynihan published his prophetic report, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” In 1965 when the report was written, Moynihan warned that the black family was in crisis: 23.6 percent of blacks were born illegitimately (1963), 21 percent of non-white families had female heads-of-household, and only a minority of black children reached age 18 having always lived with their married parents. But the state of the black family in America today surpasses Moynihan’s worst fears: 72.2 percent of blacks are born out-of-wedlock, 50 percent of black children live with their mother only, and only 17 percent of black children reach adulthood having always lived with married parents.

The racial dynamic of America in 2012 is now most complex. One Civil War, three Constitutional Amendments, hundreds of legislative/ juridical decisions, and thousands of protests later, and African Americans still rate disproportionately low on a number of social outcome measures.

Unable to explain this phenomenon otherwise, many have blamed a covert but pervasive racism in America. Although this may be true for some perverted individuals, it is not the case of the majority of Americans. There is a different and powerful culprit at work.    

By common sense the straightforward way to eliminate an adverse outcome is to mitigate its cause; otherwise, one is only providing temporary treatment rather than a permanent solution. Black social ills have been temporarily treated rather than permanently resolved. During the horrible days of the slave trade, black families were ripped apart—fathers were taken from their children, and wives were left to run households. Blacks still do not have informal equality of opportunity because the broken black family—the real root problem of their social ills—has yet to heal. Relief programs like affirmative action are insufficient solutions because blacks are neither less intelligent nor less capable of working than whites, Hispanics, Asians, or any other race. Rather, many black children are never given the opportunity to fully harness their potential because they suffer the rejection of a broken family and its attendant misfortunates. The real relief the black community needs is an immediate and radical resurgence of intact marriage and all that is necessary to achieve that.

The importance of family structure is underlined in two recent publications released by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI): “The State of the Black Family in America” and “The Index of Belonging and Rejection.” For both black men and women (aged 35 to 40), the highest number of high school drop-outs were always-single, while the highest number of professional graduates were married. Black men, women, teenagers, and children who were raised in always-single households had the highest rate of poverty of all family structures. Correspondingly, 61 percent of black females and 51 percent of black males receiving TANF or welfare are in always-single families, and 49 percent of black children whose household receives food stamps were being raised by an always-single parent. Currently, only 17 percent of black 15- to 17-year-olds on the cusp of adulthood have been raised by always-married-parents since birth.

The state of the African American family explains why racial gaps have, in a sense, widened even though formal discrimination has ended. The government depends on the intact family to achieve its goals, but the intact black family is close to absent, except among highly educated blacks. According to the Fifth Annual Index of Belonging, the number of black teens (15- to 17-years-old) that grew up in intact families dropped from 38 percent in 1950 to 17 percent in 2012. In other words, 21 percent fewer teens have the security of a stable, intact family.

Given this disintegration of the black family, it is no wonder that blacks rank disproportionately low on a number of “ordinary good-life” outcomes. The pernicious effects of family rejection have been compounded across generations and seep into the wider community and its ethos. Children of broken families are more likely to pass their problems on to their own children, and, overtime these adverse outcomes spill over into society at large.

Despite the failure of social policy, there is a solution to this vicious cycle: the Black Church. African Americans are among the most frequent church-goers. Recently, however, many churches have become lackadaisical in promulgating Christ’s teachings on chastity and marriage. Social policy has proven useless in correcting the ills of family rejection and brokenness, but the Church certainly can if it has the will. A deep conversion and close following of Christ and His teaching on purity, family values, brotherly love, and communal service are the key ingredients to raising the black family to its rightful integrity. In turn, the black community can then hold the rest of America to this new standard. This is the exemplary role of the black community, and the leadership opportunity that beckons the Black Church.