WASHINGTON, May 15, 2014 — From poor academic achievement and teenage pregnancy to drug use and crime, most social problems cannot be properly understood without considering the absence of fathers in homes. Many of the social problems we face are a direct result of the fatherless home.
At present, 15 million American children — one in three — live without a father.
Nation-wide, the number families with two parents in the home has dropped significantly over the past decade. Even as the country added 160,000 families with children, the number of two-parent households decreased by 1.2 million.
In Baltimore, 38 percent of families have two parents. In St. Louis, the portion is 40 percent.
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The problem is particularly acute in the black community: Nearly 5 million black children, or 54 per cent, live in a one-parent, matriarchal family.
A report from the Institute for American Values Center for Marriage and Families notes that over the past 50 years, “the percentage of black families headed by married couples declined from 78 percent to 34 percent.”
In the 30 years from 1950 to 1980, households headed by black women who never married jumped from 3.8 per thousand to 69.7 per thousand.
“For policymakers who care about black America, marriage matters,” wrote the authors. They called marriage in black America an important strategy for “improving the well-being of African-Americans and for strengthening civil society.”
In his book “Enough,” journalist Juan Williams points out that, “The answer to the question of how to create opportunities for the poor is to get them to take school seriously, to set up high academic expectations for their children and to insist on high expectations from teachers in good schools. It is also a personal matter of self-control that begins with understanding the power of the family and putting love, romance, and children (as well as knowing how to be good parents) in their proper order.”
Linda Chavez, the former head of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission argues that the “chief cause of poverty today among blacks is no longer racism: it is the breakdown of the traditional family.”
Juan Williams, often accused of “blaming the poor” states:
“They say this answer puts pressure on the poor. They say this with a straight face, even though nearly 70 percent of black children are born to single women, damning a high number of them to poverty, bad schools, and bad influences. They say this knowing that in 1964, in a far more hostile and racist America, 82 per cent of black households had both parents in place and close to half of those households owned a business.”
President Obama himself made this point in a 2008 Father’s Day speech in Chicago:
“If we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that too many fathers are…missing…from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weakening because of it. You and I know how true this is in the African-American community. We know that more than half of all black children live in single parent households, a number that has doubled since we were children.”
Black Americans have made dramatic progress in recent years. Economist Walter Williams notes that:
“black Americans as a group have made some of the largest gains over some of the highest hurdles in the shortest time of any group in history. If black Americans were a nation, they would be the sixteenth richest on earth. Some of the richest, and most famous, people in the world are black Americans. Colin Powell led the mightiest army in human history. In 1865 neither a slave nor a slave owner would have believed this kind of progress was possible in a little over a century, if ever. As such it speaks to the intestinal fortitude of a people and, just as important, to the greatness of the nation where such gains were possible — gains that would have been impossible anywhere except the United States.”
Yet, Williams points out:
“For many blacks, these gains are elusive, perhaps for 30 percent of our community. It does the poor no favors to blame their problems on racism, which has been diminishing as the pathologies got worse. In 1940, the black illegitimacy rate was around 14 percent. Now, it’s 75 percent. In 1870, right after slavery, 70 to 80 percent of black families were intact. Now only 30 percent of black kids live in two-parent families. Some 51 percent of homicide victims are black, as are 95 percent of their killers. You can’t blame this on white people. The rotten schools black kids attend are mostly in cities where black adults are in control and spending a lot of taxpayers’ money on those schools.”
Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime. They are nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.
The Urban Institute finds that the percent of black women who are married declined from 53 percent to 25 percent over the past half century. Marriage is declining among whites and Hispanics as well, although less dramatically. The drop in marriage for white women in the past half century has been from 65 percent to 52 percent, and among Hispanic women from 67 percent to 43 percent.
A recent Department of Education study shows that a child’s grades are more closely correlated to how many times the father came to a school event than any other factor. Children with involved fathers measure as having higher IQs by age three, higher self-esteem, and in the case of daughters, grow up to be less promiscuous.
A study from the University of Virginia and the Institute for American Values, “The State of Our Unions,” tracks the decline of marriage among Americans of all races who have high school but not college educations. By one estimate cited in the report, which was written by five family scholars, the cost to taxpayers when stable families fail to form is about $112 billion annually, or more than $1 trillion per decade.
In the 1980s, only 13 percent of children were born outside of marriage among moderately educated mothers. By 2010, the number had risen to 44 percent.
The lead author of the new study, Elizabeth Marquardt, writes:
“Marriage is not merely a private arrangement; it is also a complex social institution. Marriage fosters small cooperative unions — also known as stable families — that enable children to thrive, shore up communities, and help family members to succeed during good times, and to weather the bad times. Researchers are finding that the disappearance of marriage in Middle America is tracking with the disappearance of the middle class in the same communities, a change that strikes at the very heart of the American Dream.”
We ignore the absence of fathers in a growing number of families and the decline of marriage itself at our peril. When, in 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan issued his report about the alarming rise of African American children born out of wedlock, it set off a major national discussion.
The latest findings, equally disturbing and reflecting trends among Americans of all races, are being largely ignored. This may tell us a lot about the strange set of priorities that dominates what passes for public discourse.