The new figures from the Census bureau say that in 2007 the percent of black children living with two parents is now at 39.5% compared to 35% in 2004. In the white community it's at 77%.
According to a news report:
Demographers said such a trend might be partly attributable to the growing proportion of immigrants in the nation’s black population. It may have been driven, too, by the values of an emerging black middle class, a trend that could be jeopardized by the current economic meltdown.As Kay Hymowitz from City Journal points out there be no elimination of black inequity until the family issue is addressed. In a recent commentary she looks at the genesis of the black communities economic and social problems. They stem from the breakdown of the black family.
The Census Bureau attributed an indeterminate amount of the increase to revised definitions adopted in 2007, which identify as parents any man and woman living together, whether or not they are married or the child’s biological parents.
According to the bureau’s estimates, the number of black children living with two parents was 59 percent in 1970, falling to 42 percent in 1980, 38 percent in 1990 and 35 percent in 2004. In 2007, the latest year for which data is available, it was 40 percent.
For non-Hispanic whites, the figure in 2007 was 77 percent, down from 90 percent in 1970.
While expressing skepticism about an increase so large in such a short time in the number of black children living with two parents, a number of experts said the shift was potentially significant.“It’s a positive change,” said Prof. Robert J. Sampson, the chairman of Harvard's sociology department. “It’s been hidden.”
She notes that
In 1965, a young assistant secretary of labor named Daniel Patrick Moynihan stumbled upon data that showed a rise in the number of black single mothers. As Moynihan wrote in a now-famous report for the Johnson administration, he was especially troubled by the growth in illegitimacy, as it was universally called then, coincided with a decline in black male unemployment. Strangely, black men were joining the labor force more, but they were marrying — and fathering — less.
There were other puzzling facts. In 1950, at the height of the Jim Crow era and despite the shattering legacy of slavery, the great majority of black children — an estimated 85 percent — were born to their two married parents. Just 15 years later, there seemed to be no obvious reason that that would change. With the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, legal barriers to equality were falling. The black middle class had grown substantially, and the first five years of the 1960s had produced 7 million new jobs. Yet 24 percent of black mothers were then bypassing marriage. Moynihan wrote later that he, like everyone else in the policy business, had assumed that "economic conditions determine social conditions." Now, it seemed, "what everyone knew was evidently not so."
President Lyndon Johnson was deeply shaken by Moynihan's findings. Neither man was driven by sentimentality or religious conviction, but both believed that fatherlessness undermined the "basic socializing unit." Intent on sounding a public alarm, Johnson declared during a commencement address at Howard University: "When the family collapses, it is the children that are usually damaged. When it happens on a massive scale, the community itself is crippled."
Yet then as now there's a lot of political resistance to addressing truthfully the problems in the black community (and for that matter white community where family breakdown is a growing problem.)
Unfortunately, those warnings were as prescient as they were reviled. Civil rights leaders, worried about reviving racist myths about black promiscuity, objected to what they viewed as blaming the victim. Feminists were inclined to look on the "strong black women" raising their children without men as a symbol of female autonomy. By the fall of 1965, when a White House conference on the black family was scheduled, the Moynihan report and the subject had disappeared.
But the silent treatment was the wrong medicine. Since 1965, through economic recessions and booms, the black family has unraveled in ways that have little parallel in human cultures. By 1980, black fatherlessness had doubled; 56 percent of black births were to single mothers. In inner-city neighborhoods, the number was closer to 66 percent. By the 1990s, even as the overall fertility of American women, including African-Americans, was falling, the majority of black women who did bear children were unmarried. Today, 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers. In some neighborhoods, two-parent families have vanished. In parts of Newark and Philadelphia, for example, it is common to find children who are not only growing up without their fathers but don't know anyone who is living with his or her biological father.
She then makes the critical point that racial progress or racial inequality are directly tied to addressing this problem.
And what has this meant for racial progress? Fifty years after Jim Crow, black U.S. households have the lowest median income of any racial or ethnic group. Close to a third of black children are poor, and their chances of moving out of poverty are considerably lower than those of their white peers. The fractured black family is not the sole explanation for these gaps, but it is central. While half of all black children born to single mothers are poor, that is the case for only 12 percent of those born to married parents. At least three simulation studies "marrying off" single mothers to either the fathers of their children or to potential husbands of similar demographic characteristics concluded that child poverty would be dramatically lower had marriage rates remained what they were in 1970.
Black married couples make a median household income of $62,000, which is more than 80 percent of what white households earn and represents a gain of 13 percentage points since the 1960s. Yet overall, black household median income is only 62 percent that of white households, a mere six-point increase over the same period.
Merely walking down the aisle can't explain these differences. Rather, the institution of marriage appears to promote ideals of stability, order and fidelity that benefit children and adults alike. Those who pin their hopes for black progress on education tend to forget this. Numerous studies, when controlled for income and race, show that, on average, children growing up with single mothers are less likely to graduate from high school and go to college. And Moynihan's discovery of a negligible relationship between "economic conditions and social conditions" suggests that even increases in black male employment are not a certain cure.
That last quote from Moynihan is critical. Today policymakers are infatuated with addressing problems by throwing money at them. They say we can get rid of social inequality, poverty, family problems by simply creating more social programs or increasing social spending. Unfortunately, the money spent isn't spent wisely. It's done to replace the family rather than empower it.
Yet maybe Obama's greatest opportunity and challenge is addressing the breakdown of the family which is so endemic in the black community. He'll have to buck the black political and cultural establishment which too often plays of the victim status to retain power and the liberal white establishment which is wed to the welfare system and views marriage promotion as moralizing. As Hymowitz notes:
Through the power of his own example, Obama presents a chance to revive what Lyndon Johnson called "the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights." Obama's memoir, "Dreams From My Father," conveys the economic, emotional and existential toll of growing up fatherless, and he has spoken movingly of his determination to ensure for his own children a different life. Yet tackling this issue won't be easy. When Obama gave a Father's Day speech lamenting "fathers ... missing from too many lives and too many homes," Jesse Jackson was so incensed that he said he wanted to castrate Obama. Still, painful as the subject is, the alternative is far worse: racial inequality as far as the eye can see.