What extensive data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and National Vital Statistics Reports show is that the black family was in deep disarray well before America’s prison-population increase. As the 1960s began, 20% of all black births were to single mothers. By 1965 black “illegitimacy”—in the parlance of the time—had reached 24% and become the subject of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s prophetic but ill-fated report “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.”
Yet the figure that so worried future Sen. Moynihan turned out to be the ground floor of a steep 30-year climb. By 1980 more than half of black children were born to unmarried mothers. The number peaked at 72.5% in 2010 and is now just below 72%. . . .
As the family unraveled, crime increased—the homicide rate doubled between the early 1960s and late ’70s, with more than half of the convicted being black—leading to calls for tougher sentencing to place more bad guys behind bars. In other words, family breakdown was followed by increased crime and more-crowded prisons. . . .
None of this means that incarceration policies aren’t ready for an overhaul. The country needs a vigorous examination of mandatory-sentencing laws, the war on drugs, and racial disparities in arrests and sentencing. But that debate shouldn’t be used to evade the realities of family life in neighborhoods like Ferguson and Baltimore’s Sandtown. Evasion has been the preferred modus vivendi over the past 50 years, ever since Moynihan’s warning of rising fatherlessness drew sharp condemnation. Look where it has gotten us.
Kay Hymowitz, “The Flawed ‘Missing Men’ Theory”, 9 Aug 2015, The Wall Street Journal, 10 Aug. 2015 < http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-flawed-missing-men-theory-1439159236 >