In March of 1965 Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a report about the high level of out-of-wedlock births in the black community, the report was titled “The Negro Family: The Case For National Action.” At the time the illegitimacy rate for black families was 25%. Today it’s barely under 75%.
Originally Moynihan noticed a correlation between illegitimate births and the unemployment rate. That correlation no longer exists. Illegitimacy among black families has developed a dynamic all its own.
For Moynihan the center of the tangle of pathologies is the weakness of family structure. Moynihan never reveled in such admonishment for he too came from a broken home in Oklahoma during the Great Depression. His father deserted the family in 1937. Moynihan’s adolescence was far from stable. Ironically, when his report was published he became a pariah in the Johnson administration. For Moynihan, the analysis was easy to understand. The gains in equality and income brought forth by the Civil Rights movement were threatened.
There have been many others to tackle the problem that Moynihan presented so fairly. James Q. Wilson, E. Franklin Frazier, Christopher Jencks and William Julius Wilson have all published extensively on the connections between marriage, race and poverty.
The above named authors agree that the richest inheritance any child can have is a stable, loving, disciplined family life. Black children are disproportionately denied this inheritance. Brookings Institution scholars Bon Haskins and Isabel Sawhill have noted that the poverty rate of married-couple families is five times lower than for female families with children.
The cycle of poverty can only be broken when black families understand that the nature of family and the conjugal act is reserved for the bond of marriage. The alternatives are all around us. Just look at our inner cities.
Moynihan ended his report: “If there is one unmistakable lesson in American History, it is this: a community that allows a large number of men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relation to male authority, never acquiring expectations about the future, that community asks for and gets chaos.”