EppsNet Archive: Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Still Right on the Black Family After All These Years

12 Feb 2015 /

Next month marks the 50th anniversary of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report on the black family, the controversial document issued while he served as an assistant secretary in President Lyndon Johnson’s Labor Department. Moynihan highlighted troubling cultural trends among inner-city blacks, with a special focus on the increasing number of fatherless homes.

For his troubles, Moynihan was denounced as a victim-blaming racist bent on undermining the civil-rights movement. . . .

Later this year the nation also will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which some consider the most significant achievement of the modern-day civil-rights movement. . . .

Since 1970 the number of black elected officials in the U.S. has grown to more than 9,000 from fewer than 1,500 and has included big-city mayors, governors, senators and of course a president.

But even as we note this progress, the political gains have not redounded to the black underclass, which by several important measures—including income, academic achievement and employment—has stagnated or lost ground over the past half-century. And while the civil-rights establishment and black political leaders continue to deny it, family structure offers a much more plausible explanation of these outcomes than does residual white racism.

In 2012 the poverty rate for all blacks was more than 28%, but for married black couples it was 8.4% and has been in the single digits for two decades. Just 8% of children raised by married couples live in poverty, compared with 40% of children raised by single mothers.

One important lesson of the past half-century is that counterproductive cultural traits can hurt a group more than political clout can help it.