In 1965, the U.S. Department of Labor produced a report arguing that “the decline of the black nuclear family would significantly impede blacks’ progress toward economic and social equality.” The document, know as the “Moynihan Report,” stirred heated controversy. The Urban Institute revisited the subject this year.
The new study again focused on the African-American community, and its disproportionately high poverty rate. Once again, it found that increasing single-parent households lead to poverty—but now the percentage of black children born to unmarried mothers is three times higher than it was in the 60s.
The share of white children living without fathers has also increased, but rates remain significantly higher among blacks. In 2009, nearly three-quarters of African-American children were born outside of marriage, resulting in 40 percent of black children living below the poverty line.
Regardless of race, single-parent families are far more likely to live in poverty, with four of every ten single-mother families in poverty, and only one of 12 two-parent homes in poverty. Another study by the Heritage Foundation found that most poor children are from single-parent families.
The new Urban Institute study gives a sobering perspective: “Over the past five decades, the statistics that so alarmed Moynihan in the 1960s have only grown worse, not only for blacks, but for whites and Hispanics as well.”
Things are bad, but they don’t have to stay that way. Marriage, which is available to everyone, drops the probability of child poverty by 82 percent.