Sunday, March 6, 2022


The Brookings Institute is a traditional liberal operation, not progressive, but concerned about the poor without worshipping them.  They have studied what causes poverty:

Most people are poor in the United States because they either do not work or work too few hours to move themselves and their children out of poverty. More specifically, the heads of poor families with children worked only one half as many hours, on average, as the heads of nonpoor families with children in 2001, according to the Census Bureau (table 1). There are many reasons the poor work fewer hours than the nonpoor, including difficulty in finding jobs, the demands of caring for young children, poor health, transportation problems, substance abuse, and other personal problems. Although a shortage of job opportunities is often cited as an important reason for the poor’s lack of involvement in the work force, the gap in the work hours of poor and nonpoor families with children is observed in good years as well as bad. The state of the economy and the availability of jobs surely play some role, but are not the primary reasons for these differences in work effort. In short, the poor have less income in large measure because they work far fewer hours than their more affluent counterparts.

Another striking difference between the poor and nonpoor is the much smaller proportion of the poor who are married. In 2001, 81 percent of nonpoor families with children were headed by married couples. This compares to only 40 percent among poor families with children (table 1). In part this reflects higher marriage rates among the better educated or more skilled and in part it reflects the fact that such families increasingly have two earners, lifting them out of poverty whatever the size of their individual paychecks.

Still a third difference between the poor and the nonpoor is in levels of education. The average head of a poor family with children is a high school dropout, while the average head of a nonpoor family has completed some college (table 1). While lack of education is commonly cited as a prime source of poverty, it as we will see is less important than work and marriage in depressing family incomes.

Finally, poor families have more children than the nonpoor, requiring that their limited incomes support more people. Among families with children, the typical poor family has slightly more than two children whereas the typical nonpoor family has less than two (table 1). While this difference is small, it not only requires that available income be stretched a little further, but more importantly could inhibit work and marriage among single parents.

It is an article of faith that blacks are poorer than whites because of systemic racism (the phrase with no defined or perhaps definable meaning).  So what distinguishes white Americans from black Americans:

Since 1970, out-of-wedlock birth rates have soared. In 1965, 24 percent of black infants and 3.1 percent of white infants were born to single mothers. By 1990 the rates had risen to 64 percent for black infants, 18 percent for whites. Every year about one million more children are born into fatherless families. If we have learned any policy lesson well over the past 25 years, it is that for children living in single-parent homes, the odds of living in poverty are great. The policy implications of the increase in out-of-wedlock births are staggering. 

Black children are 3x more likely to be born out of wedlock, meaning the mothers are unmarried, and thus more likely to be poor.  That 18% rate for whites is also a problem.  Look for poor whites in your community and see if there are fathers.

Do you want racial equity?  How about solving the riddle of black women (often girls, really) having children out of wedlock.  This is a cultural problem that systemic racism cannot cause.  Does the supposedly widespread racism of our society force black teenagers to have sex with usually black men?

There is something severely broken in ghetto culture.  All the privileged white self-criticism sessions will not fix this.

This graph is floating around social media:

It comes from this Brookings Institute paper.


  1. ...How about solving the riddle of black women (often girls, really) having children out of wedlock. This is a cultural problem that systemic racism cannot cause....

    If you consider the incarceration and murder rates of marriageable-aged black men to be related to racism, then you can say that racism is a cause of low marriage rates for black women. There simply are not enough black men for the number of black women.

    I am not arguing that, but it certainly is an argument that is made.

    1. I understand the claim, but comparison of victimization surveys and Uniform Crime Reports arrest data show that black men are arrested for felonies at similar rates. That is not systemic racism. It may be (and I suspect is) a consequence of growing up without fathers.