Are poor outcomes for black Americans caused by "the legacy of slavery," or by racism, or by something else entirely?
In 1950 only 17 percent of black children lived in single-parent households; today almost 70 percent do.
Every census from 1890 to 1950 showed that the percentage of black Americans with jobs was higher than the percentage for whites. During the late 1940s, the unemployment rate for black 16- and 17-year-olds was less than that for white teens. Now those figures are reversed, with the percentage of non-working blacks of all ages higher than for whites.
In 1950 72 percent of black men and 81 percent of black women had been married. In other words, marriage in the black community was the norm rather than the exception.
In 1938, 11 percent of black children and 3 percent of white children were born to unwed mothers. As late as 1965, 75 percent of black children were born to married women.
Today, over 73 percent of black babies are born to unwed mothers.
Before 1960, the number of teenage pregnancies was DEcreasing; both poverty and dependency were declining; and black income was rising in both absolute and relative terms to white income.
Compared to decades ago, the black community has seen a huge increase in the number of single mothers, and a similar, vast decline in the rate of marriage. And while some single mothers manage to raise good kids, the percentage seems to be far smaller than for two-parent families. In every survey I've seen, children raised by single mothers are far more likely to have bad outcomes in terms of drugs and prison.
What's caused the huge increase in the percentage of black children born to single moms, and the precipitous drop in the rate of black marriage? "Black lives matter" people say it's a legacy of slavery, or raaacism by whites. But if slavery was the cause of the problems, the problems should have been worse as you go back closer to the time slavery was actually practiced in the U.S. Clearly that's not being shown by the figures above.
Same with racism: Until the last couple of years every survey I found shows that racist views by white Americans have been steadily dropping. So if racism was causing the black dysfunction, that should be improving, not worsening. And in fact, the rarely-mentioned secret is that black kids raised by functional, two-parent families have virtually the same outcomes as children of other races.
So what might account for the worsening of virtually every metric about black performance since 1960 or so? Is there some economic or social signal that affects mostly blacks that has sparked these trends?
I think there is. For one thing, beginning around 1960 the federal government started decreeing all sorts of things. And giving money to people who had children out of wedlock, and to people who refused to work.
Virtually every economist recognizes that when you subsidize something, you get a lot more of it.
Let me be clear that the increased probability of bad outcomes for kids raised by a single mom affects all races. So kids born to never-married or to divorced women are more likely to have a hard time regardless of race. But imagine how much less crime there would be if only 17% of black children were raised in single-parent households, instead of the 73% that's the case today.
But despite the paragraph above, I am NOT indicting or criticizing the black community. Rather, I think the trends have been caused by members of that community who have been responding quite rationally to government policies that politicians and sociologists thought would help, but which had the perverse effect of incentivizing all low-income citizens to avoid marriage and two-parent families.
These policies were created almost entirely by liberal Democrats--most of whom were no doubt well intentioned. But the policies had unintended (though not totally unexpected) effects. They were also exploited by so-called "progressives" like professors Cloward and Piven, who admitted they wanted to overload all social services, to bring down the government.
In any case,
As an aside: All the figures above are from this link. The author happens to be economist Walter Williams. As an African-American Williams presumably doesn't have a reason to be biased against blacks.