Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Negro Family: The Case For National Action (Moynihan, 1965) The Negro Family: The Case For National Action (Moynihan, 1965)

Back as an incoming freshman in college in 1968, we were tasked to read "The Negro Family: The Case For National Action" by Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Mr. Moynihan worked for four administrations, Democrat and Republican, and ultimately ended up serving three terms as a Senator from New York. He died two years ago, a national hero.

A year or so ago, I read a book on neo-conservatism, and was surprised to find that he was considered a charter member of that group, given his obvious liberal leanings. But then, they defined a neo-conservative as a progressive mugged by reality.

The URL above links to a Department of Labor version of the book, minus many of the tables and footnotes that made it so hard to read 37 years ago. Rereading it now is interesting, esp. in view of the recent flap by Bill Bennett and Freakonomics.

Moynihan, back 40 years ago, was bemoaning the breakdown of the "Negro Family". He blamed it on, among other things, urbanization - that Black families tended to break down as they moved from the rural south to the cities. And since then, it has only gotten worse. A lot worse. And, there are a lot of studies that show that there is an extremely high correlation between raising kids in fatherless households and crime. Indeed, this is one of the biggest, if not biggest, predictors of (and, presumably causes of) crime. Somewhere around 90% of those in prison, black, white, etc., were raised in such environments. So, no surprise that with the significantly higher percentage of Black children being raised this way, that the Black crime rate is significantly higher than average.

I would suggest though that Sen. Moynihan's solution made the problem worse. He was instrumental in the War on Poverty, and that is, in my estimation, one of the two major factors behind this explosion since he wrote that book. The War on Poverty provided financial incentives to women to have children out of wedlock - supporting them if they did, and cutting them off when a man entered the scene. And, secondly, the stigma of bastardry has been effectively eliminated. All this happened about the same time. And both worked to make raising kids without a father in the house viable and morally acceptable.

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