George Will wrote in a recent syndicated column:
Liberalism's post-Katrina fearlessness in discovering the obvious — if an inner city is inundated, the victims will be disproportionately minorities — stopped short of indelicately noting how many of the victims were women with children but not husbands.
He prefaced this observation with three rules for avoiding poverty:
Graduate from high school, don't have a baby until you are married, don't marry while you are a teenager.
The appearance of this column in my local newspaper resulted in an outraged letter to the editor; but a few days later, an article in the same paper reported a speech by Louis Farrakhan in downtown Memphis:
Many of the older people in the audience stood up to clap when Farrakhan said, "When our grandparents should be enjoying the twilight of their lives, they're having to raise their children's children. ...
"Our society is sick," he said.
An erudite black woman, Federal Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown, gave a speech in 2000 while she was on the California Supreme Court, in which she related:
Lionel Tiger, in a provocative new book called The Decline of Males, posits a brilliant and disturbing new paradigm. He notes we used to think of a family as a man, a woman, and a child. Now, a remarkable new family pattern has emerged which he labels "bureaugamy." A new trinity: a woman, a child, and a bureaucrat." Professor Tiger contends that most, if not all, of the gender gap that elected Bill Clinton to a second term in 1996 is explained by this phenomenon. According to Tiger, women moved in overwhelming numbers to the Democratic party as the party most likely to implement policies and programs which will support these new reproductive strategies.
Professor Tiger is not critical of these strategies. He views this trend as the triumph of reproduction over production; the triumph of Darwinism over Marxism; and he advocates broad political changes to accommodate it.
Others do not see these changes as quite so benign or culturally neutral. Jacques Barzan finds the Central Western notion of emancipation has been devalued. It has now come to mean that "nothing stands in the way of every wish." The result is a decadent age — an era in which "there are no clear lines of advance"; "when people accept futility and the absurd as normal[,] the culture is decadent."
I found another source of the three rules for avoiding poverty in a recent William Raspberry column, Poor Women's 'Magical Outlook':
I recalled what William Galston, a University of Maryland professor of public policy, once called his "favorite statistic": that finishing high school, reaching age 21 and getting married before having the first child dramatically reduces the odds that the child will experience poverty.
So, I wondered, what does he make of the "Promises" findings?
"If I were a woman in a community like the one they describe, and the pool of men I was looking at involved dropouts with criminal records and abusive patterns, I wouldn't marry either. But that omits the prior question: Why would I allow such a man to impregnate me?"
In short, it isn't simply the decoupling of marriage from children, he said, but the decoupling of the decision to have a child from the rest of your life.
Raspberry gave an additional source for the three rules in a column a few weeks earlier, Poverty and the Father Factor.
In another recent article, The Hallmark of the Underclass, Charles Murray wrote:
Why has the proportion of unsocialized young males risen so relentlessly? In large part, I would argue, because the proportion of young males who have grown up without fathers has also risen relentlessly. The indicator here is the illegitimacy ratio--the percentage of live births that occur to single women. It was a minuscule 4% in the early 1950s, and it has risen substantially in every subsequent decade. The ratio reached the 25% milestone in 1988 and the 33% milestone in 1999. As of 2003, the figure was 35%--of all births, including whites. The black illegitimacy ratio in 2003 was 68%. By way of comparison: The illegitimacy ratio that caused Daniel Patrick Moynihan to proclaim the breakdown of the black family in the early 1960s was 24%.
The full text of Murray's short 1999 book, The Underclass Revisited, can be downloaded free from this page. Another relevant Murray article can be found here and offers evidence for his assertion that:
The bottom line for this accumulation of experience in America is that it is impossible to make up for parenting deficits through outside interventions.
So there we have similar observations by two black men, one black woman, and two white men. Can we talk about this problem and do something about it now?
UPDATE: Marriage: A social justice issue
UPDATE: Mixed feelings on Father's Day