Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Disintegration Of The Black Family

Until the 1950's, black children were more likely to live with two parents than were white children.

Right before the passage of the War on Poverty legislation in 1964, 78% of black children lived with both parents.  That number is 38% according to the most recent Census Bureau statistics.

Last year, 72% of all black children in this country were born out of wedlock.  In 1960, only 22% of black children were born out of wedlock.

Why is all of this important? Almost 34% of black children live in poverty.  However, this rate is only 11% for children living with married parents but soars to 49% if they are living with a single mother. 

In 1959, 55% of black families lived in poverty.  Therefore, there has been an 80% reduction in the number of black children living in poverty if they are in a family setting.   However, for the child living with a single mother the reduction has only been about 20% .

Colbert King discusses the demise of the black family and its consequences in "Celebrating black history as the black family disintegrates" in yesterday's Washington Post.

We know that most teenage mothers don't graduate from high school; that many of the youths in the juvenile justice system are born to unmarried teens; and that children of teenagers are twice as likely to be abused or neglected and more likely to wind up in foster care.
We know, too, that children of teenage parents are more likely to become teen parents themselves.
An intergenerational cycle of dysfunction is unfolding before our eyes, even as we spend time rhapsodizing about our past.
No less discouraging is the response that has become ingrained.
Sixteen, unmarried and having a baby? No problem. Here are your food stamps, cash assistance and medical coverage. Can't be bothered with the kid? No sweat, there's foster care.
Make the young father step up to his responsibilities?
Consider this statement I received from a sexual health coordinator and youth programs coordinator in the District concerning a teen mother she is counseling: "She recently had a child by a man who is 24 years old and has 5 other children. He is homeless and does not work, but knows how to work young girls very well. . . .This young man is still trying to have more children."
He's a cause. Our community deals with his consequences.

If we are to make any progress in lowering the poverty rate for children, a key focus has to be on seeing more children living with two parents and fewer in homes with single mothers.  It is clearly more efficient economically when two parents can bring the potential for two incomes and can also share the costs of one household.  This is true even without considering the emotional and psychological benefits for children in two-parent households.

If we want to make real progress on reducing poverty we need to start dealing with the causes rather than just spending money on the consequences.

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