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More About the Relationship between Blacks and Their Government in Baltimore

Baltimore, crime, family structure, intact family, race, violence No comments

By Henry Potrykus

In this blog, we recently announced the release of a MARRI overview on “Violence in Baltimore.”  In one part of the overview, we focused-in on black children in Baltimore.  I produced some statistics on the family life and poverty situation these children find themselves in. This post goes into further explanatory detail on that situation.

As background let’s quote from the report:

The city of Baltimore has just under 4,000 white 15- to 17-year olds.  Just over half— nearly 2,000— have seen the break-up of their family of origin.* This is in line with the national experience.

The experience of black Baltimore teens on the cusp of adulthood is different.  Over 15,000 have seen the break-up of their biological parents.  But only 1,500 black 15- to 17-year-old residents of Baltimore have not experienced that act of rejection.  So, for every one black teen of Baltimore who does not experience family rejection, there are ten who do.  More than 90 percent of black Baltimore teens on the cusp of adulthood witness parental rejection. 

Poverty in Baltimore is strongly influenced by this gaping calamity.  The influence of family intactness (for children of any age; see “The Fifth Annual Index of Belonging and Rejection”) on the probability of a child (0- to 17-years old) being poor dwarfs the influence of race.

The influence of parental rejection is also greater than that of living only with parents who have dropped out of high school.  The “adjusted mean” level of child poverty in Baltimore is about 29 percent.** Being black raises this rate of poverty by almost 9 percent.  Living in a household only with parents who have dropped out of high school further raises this number by around 13 percent.  Living in a home where no parent has rejected the other lowers this rate of poverty by better than 15 percent, more than half the baseline rate of childhood poverty in the city.

Further Findings

Now, simple accumulation of the baseline, racial, and family relative risks of poverty, shows that family intactness brings childhood poverty among blacks in the city effectively down to the national level (around 22%).  (29 % + 9% – 15% yields less than 23%.)

In fact, the complete (technical) result is even stronger than this.  Intactness cuts poverty by more than half among black children in Baltimore.  (There is a 15 percent residual poverty rate for black children who live in their family of origin, which is below the average for the nation’s children as a whole.)***

Unsurprisingly for Baltimore, then, food stamp (SNAP) dependency and public healthcare (e.g., Medicaid) dependency are more strongly influenced by intactness than they are by the race a child is born into or by parents’ high school completion.

Regarding food stamp dependency: Family intactness shows itself to be more important than either race, or if parents have dropped out of high school. The “adjusted mean” rate of food stamp receipt in Baltimore is an impressive 42 percent for children. Living in a home where no parent has rejected the other lowers this rate of dependency by almost 17 percent.  Black children have a higher recipiency rate by almost 16 percent.  Statistically, then, intact families alleviate the need for Baltimore anti-hunger campaigns targeting minority children.  Living in a household only with parents who have dropped out of high school raises this dependency rate by almost 9 percent.

For public healthcare dependency (in the years 2008 through 2013), intactness is also more important than either race, or if parents have dropped out of high school. The “adjusted mean” rate of public healthcare enrollment in Baltimore is a yet more impressive 61 percent for children. Living in a home where no parent has rejected the other lowers this rate again by around 17 percent.  Black children have a higher enrollment rate by almost 11 percent.  Living in a household only with parents who have dropped out of high school raises the enrollment rate also by almost 9 percent.

These additional empirical facts make it plain: The major factor influencing the (difficult) condition that black children and teens on the cusp of adulthood find themselves in in Baltimore is the lack of family intactness.  This finding becomes plain by testing one influencing factor against the other – family intactness against education, intactness and education against race–as is reported on here. 

Does poverty or a lack of economic opportunity cause violence?  Perhaps dispossessed persons are more likely to riot.  Economics would certainly say that in the absence of strict-enough penalties the dispossessed are more likely to break things they don’t have an ownership interest in.  Want to fight black poverty or dispossession in Baltimore?  There’s an obvious place to start: The intact family unit.

Endnotes:

*Population counts, taken from the American Community Survey 2008-2013, are known to a precision of about +/- 200 kids.  There are 137,400 children (of any age) found in Baltimore.

**This mean is adjusted for race (i.e., if one is non-white), parents not being high-school graduates, and the intactness of a child’s family of origin.  The adjustment is computed by an ordinary least squares regression on sampled Baltimore children (N 6440; R^2 0.14). Only significant factors (p < 0.05) shall be reported for any regression.  I also tested models with controls for parental age.  The results are pretty much the same for race and family intactness’ influences (i.e. – to statistical uncertainty:  the influences reduce in magnitude by about 1.5 percent). There are fundamental, sociological reasons why these two factors behave this way; reasons I eschew elaborating on in this post.

***Intactness also nullifies most of the negative influences of having only parents who have dropped out of high school. (There is a 5 percent residual [pejorative] influence of parental education among black childhood poverty.  Intactness better than completely compensates for the influence of low parental education attainment among whites:  There is a 4 percent net reduction in poverty off the baseline when intactness is faced off against low education attainment among white parents.)

This is the result of the saturated model for the adjustment factors of the foregoing endnote (“mean adjustment computation”).

How the Breakdown of the American Family Fosters Racial Inequalities

Census data, family structure, inequality, race No comments
In the 1960s radical groups, including many feminists, conspired to tear down the traditional, married family; little did they know they were simultaneously igniting some of the worst racial divisions America could imagine.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau on living arrangements analyzed by Nicholas Zill, 58 percent of U.S. children live with their married birth parents, followed by 23 percent that live with their birth mother (only), 5 percent that live with a birth parent and stepparent, 4 percent that live with cohabiting birth parents, and 4 percent that live with their birth father (only). Radical groups are slowly, but surely, falsely positioning marriage as a patriarchal ritual of the past.

Despite how passionately radicals argue that mothers do not need husbands or that romantic partners are fine cohabiting, marriage remains an indispensable institution that holds together the social fabric of our nation. Unfortunately, however, this fabric is fraying disproportionately across the races, as Zill illustrates.

According to the 2014 Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey, 80 percent of Asian children live with their married birth parents, followed by 68 percent of White children and 52 percent of Hispanic children. Only 29 percent of Black children lived with their married birth parents in 2014. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 50 percent of Black children lived with their birth mother (only), followed by 27 percent of Hispanic children, 15 percent of White children, and 9 percent of Asian children.

The large variation in living arrangements across the four major race/ ethnic groups has deep-seated and far-reaching consequences on racial gaps. To begin, family structure is closely related to government dependence—roughly three quarters of welfare assistance goes to single-parent families. Family structure is also associated with educational achievement, the gateway to future economic success. Four times as many individuals who came from intact, married families received a Bachelor’s degree than individuals who came from always-single parent families. Those in single-parent families are more likely to engage in risk behavior, commit criminal acts, drink, and use drugs.

Because there is such a clear-cut difference in the living arrangements of the races, social outcomes are quite easily predictable across these four groups. While Asian families are able to exercise individual agency in flourishing environments, many Black families tend to be at the mercy of the government in dangerous environments. While most Asian parents begin their child’s life by developing and cultivating their talents, many Black parents spend their children’s early years struggling to make ends meet.

There certainly is an unjust inequality among the races, but it is not the inequality of outcome that most media outlets discuss. Rather, it is an inequality of opportunity, even a lost opportunity, for many children to experience the irreplaceable married love of their mother and father.

The Root of Wealth Inequality: Race or Family Upbringing?

family structure, Great Recession, Pew Research, race, religion, wealth inequality No comments

According to a recent Pew report, the racial/ ethnic wealth divide has widened since the Great Recession. Commentators have already begun to speculate plausible rationales for this gap: inability for minorities to replenish savings, differences in financial assets, or disparate accumulations of wealth. But each of these explanations evades the two root issues at hand: family structure and frequency of religious worship.

Family structure. The intact, married family consistently produces the best economic benefits and averts financial woes. Pew’s report measured race/ ethnicity without controlling for family structure. Because the rate of family intactness is higher among whites (54 percent) than blacks (17 percent) and Hispanics (41 percent), “whites” as a racial class seemed best off.

However, as Chart 1 shows, family structure cannot be ignored. Marriage is associated with lower rates of poverty, independent of race. So, for example, the poverty rate for single white mothers is three times higher than the poverty rate for married black families. Further investigation will likely show that the true wealth divide following the Great Recession is between intact and non-intact families, especially single mothers on welfare. As Sheldon Danziger concluded back in 1986, families on welfare are stuck in a perpetual cycle of poverty because their income is disconnected from the market-based economy. Even if the economy improves, the welfare recipient’s income remains stagnant.

The importance of family structure in an improving economy is conveyed in the Iowa Youth and Families Project, widely regarded as having the richest archive of life record data on rural families and children in the United States. Over a series of decades, researchers collected data on two-parent families during and after the Iowa Farm Crisis—the worst decline in America since the 1930s. They found that the children from two-parent families from Iowa farms, despite faring worse than any other group, improved the most due to their strong family relations, productive roles, ties to grandparents, ties to their community, and resourcefulness. Recovery from the Great Recession is linked to similar familial and community factors.

Frequency of religious worship. The intact married family may fare well following economic recessions, but the intact married family that worships frequently will fare best during and after these times of difficulty. Couples whose marriages lasted 30 years or more reported that their faith helped them to deal with hard times, and was a source of moral guidance in making decisions and dealing with conflict. Adolescents whose mothers attend religious services at least weekly display better health, greater problem-solving skills, and higher overall satisfaction with their lives, regardless of race, gender, income, or family structure. An increase in religious practice is associated with greater hope and a greater sense of purpose in life, and religious affiliation and regular church attendance are among the most common reasons people give to explain their own happiness.

Beyond personal hope and well-being, religiosity confers many benefits on society as a whole. Religious attendance is associated with direct decreases in both minor and major forms of crime and deviance, to an extent unrivalled by government welfare programs. Religious individuals are 40 percent more likely than their secular counterparts to give money to charities. Compared to their secular counterparts, religious individuals are more than twice as likely to volunteer. Recovering from a depleted economy requires communal support; this support is most readily available in communities with high levels of religious participation … something that is free to anyone who wants it.

Pew’s study of wealth inequality is certainly thought-provoking; however, it is futile to discover such gaps in society if we fail to cure their causes. Reviving all of society following the Great Recession mandates an immediate attention to restoring the intact married family that worships frequently.