Charles Murray hones in on the ever worsening problem of the underclass
Why has the proportion of unsocialized young males risen so relentlessly? In large part, I would argue, because the proportion of young males who have grown up without fathers has also risen relentlessly. The indicator here is the illegitimacy ratio--the percentage of live births that occur to single women. It was a minuscule 4% in the early 1950s, and it has risen substantially in every subsequent decade. The ratio reached the 25% milestone in 1988 and the 33% milestone in 1999. As of 2003, the figure was 35%--of all births, including whites. The black illegitimacy ratio in 2003 was 68%. By way of comparison: The illegitimacy ratio that caused Daniel Patrick Moynihan to proclaim the breakdown of the black family in the early 1960s was 24%.
But illegitimacy is now common throughout the population, right? No, it is heavily concentrated in low-income groups. Perhaps illegitimacy isn't as bad as we used to think it was? No, during the past decade the evidence about the problems caused by illegitimacy has grown stronger. What about all the good news about falling teenage births? About plunging welfare rolls? Both trends are welcome, but neither has anything to do with the proportion of children being born and raised without fathers, and that proportion is the indicator that predicts the size of the underclass in the next generation.
• The government hasn't a clue. Versions of every program being proposed in the aftermath of Katrina have been tried before and evaluated. We already know that the programs are mismatched with the characteristics of the underclass. Job training? Unemployment in the underclass is not caused by lack of jobs or of job skills, but by the inability to get up every morning and go to work. A homesteading act? The lack of home ownership is not caused by the inability to save money from meager earnings, but because the concept of thrift is alien. You name it, we've tried it. It doesn't work with the underclass.
Perhaps the programs now being proposed by the administration will help ordinary poor people whose socialization is just fine and need nothing more than a chance. It is comforting to think so, but past experience with similar programs does not give reason for optimism--it is hard to exaggerate how ineffectually they have been administered. In any case, poor people who are not part of the underclass seldom need help to get out of poverty. Despite the exceptions that get the newspaper ink, the statistical reality is that people who get into the American job market and stay there seldom remain poor unless they do something self-destructive. And behaving self-destructively is the hallmark of the underclass.
For a couple of decades, Charles Murray – social science researcher extraordinaire – has exposed the real truth about social programs. THEY DON’T WORK. However, that will not stop us from spending vast sums on them; over and over and over again. It is insanity but we do not know what else to do with the underclass. So the insanity (spending vast sums of money on programs that don’t make positive change) will continue unabated.