The Real Gender Gap: Family Breakdown and Black Males

Over 50 years have passed since then Secretary of Labor Daniel Moynihan was raked over the coals for raising awareness on the alarming rise of illegitimacy in black communities. Now that the percentage of single mothers has almost tripled, even leading members of the NAACP regard the breakdown of the family as the single largest barrier to black achievement. Nevertheless, how much of the general public knows the extent of the black gender gap?

According to the Moynihan Report, black females usually outperformed their male counterparts in school and almost always greatly outnumbered black men in white-collar jobs. Data from Maryland’s 2016 PARCC exam concurs with Moynihan’s observations.

 Based on data from the 2016 Maryland Report Card

Based on these scores the gender gap in blacks is 69%. This far exceeds the 47% difference between black girls and their white counterparts.

Moynihan characterized this as a “matriarchal society” where men were devalued for their inability to provide for the family. He speculated that since men are poorly suited to this “reversal of roles,” some black males react with “aggression… self-hatred, or crime.” Data from the state of Virginia shows a strong association between single parent households and violent crime.

Both single parent household (years 2011-15) and violent crime (years 2012-14) are based on data from Country Health Rankings and Roadmaps. The cities of Bedford and Radford are excluded because their crime data was inconsistent with other data from Home Facts and Area Vibes.

Since the Appalachian cities of Galax and Bristol are 87-90% white, this correlation applies to both races.

Moynihan blamed the trend on past injustices that had “emasculated” black men and rendered them more vulnerable to downturns in the economy. Many conservatives dispute this, but in all fairness, the illegitimacy rate in blacks was already much higher than that of whites as early as the 1930s (about 15% versus 2%). Nevertheless, by exclusively focusing on past injustices, Moynihan overlooked the unintended consequences of governmental regulations that made it harder for black men to access the first rungs of the economic ladder. Ultimately, Moynihan was a liberal Democrat who did not see government as the problem. True to form, he reported that the federal minimum wage was “well below the poverty line” for people supporting families. There are two problems with this perspective: First, most minimum wage jobs are held by teens and young adults. Second, wage restrictions deprived poor blacks of the main leverage they had for competing against whites.

Ironically, the Moynihan Report started out as an internal memo written as an advisory to President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society”; a social program that is now widely credited for hastening the breakdown of the family. According to the Heritage Foundation, black illegitimacy rose exponentially halfway through the 1960s. This is precisely when the perverse incentives of Johnson’s “War on Poverty” were being implemented.

The report still has many detractors: Ibram Kendi, the founding director of the “Antiracist” Research and Policy Center at American University resented Moynihan’s use of the term “tangle of pathology” and believes it contributed to the narrative of “black inferiority.” The activist-professor also condemns the Christian right for wanting to impose their “civilizing theology” to the “wayward behavior” of blacks.

Dr. Kendi asserts that “the heartbeat of racism is denial” and for Black History Month he will be shuttling across the nation to share his expertise with fawning members of the academic community who are eager to display their antiracist credentials. As for those who see through this charade, almost none of them deny that racism exists, but when young black men are murdering one another at almost 15 times the rate of their white counterparts, you need not be black to see why the problem of racial discrimination is not high on everyone’s agenda.

Moynihan offered no solutions, but predicted that unless this trend was reversed “all the effort to end discrimination and poverty and injustice will come to little.” This prophecy came true for large portions of the black community, but who could have predicted how this ongoing achievement gap would so greatly empower a grievance industry that would hijack America’s colleges and universities? With the rejection of patriarchy and biological gender now all the rage, do not look to higher education to find answers.

Antonio Chaves teaches biology at a local community college. His interest in economic and social issues stems from his experience teaching environmental science.

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