I'm still making my way through some of the latest reconsiderations of the Moynihan Report. While doing that I've been thinking a lot about a number you see invoked whenever discussing the state of the black family--70 percent of all births among African-Americans happen out of wedlock. You often see this number invoked to show the moral or cultural decline in the black family:
For African-Americans. That's embarrassing. And you know, in the entire recorded history of the planet, there has never been a greater voluntary abandonment of men from their children than there is today in black America. Never. I mean, when men went off to war, they had to go off to war. That wasn't voluntary. But never as great of voluntary abandonment of children by their fathers than in black America today.
Or like this:
Why don't the NAACP and similar organizations take all the money they use to challenge and complain about the standards that their groups (in the aggregate) don't meet when it comes to university admissions, selective high-school admissions, school discipline, mortgage loans, police and firefighter tests, felon disenfranchisement laws, employment policies that look at criminal records, etc., etc., and use that money to figure out ways to bring down the illegitimacy rates that drive all these other disparities?
Just as often you see it invoked by black people themselves in much the same way. What undergirds all of this is the sense that the black community of today is somehow deficient in a way that the black community of yesteryear was not.
I think its very important to get past the jeremiads and understand why the numbers look the way they do. And given that this is an old beef of mine, I figured I'd go through the numbers again, fool around with some spreadsheets and try to get in touch with my inner Derek Thompson.
One obvious reason that you have a higher percentage of children born out of wedlock in the black community is that the number of unmarried women (mothers or not) has grown a lot, while number of married women has grown only a little. You can see that in the chart above, which I culled from these census numbers. The numbers are by the thousand.