Still Right on the Black Family After All These Years

Jason L. Riley, Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2015

Will liberals ever forgive Daniel Patrick Moynihan for being right?

Next month marks the 50th anniversary of the future senator’s report on the black family, the controversial document issued while he served as an assistant secretary in President Lyndon Johnson’s Labor Department. Moynihan highlighted troubling cultural trends among inner-city blacks, with a special focus on the increasing number of fatherless homes.

“The fundamental problem is that of family structure,” wrote Moynihan, who had a doctorate in sociology. “The evidence–not final but powerfully persuasive–is that the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling.”

For his troubles, Moynihan was denounced as a victim-blaming racist bent on undermining the civil-rights movement. Even worse, writes Harvard’s Paul Peterson in the current issue of the journal Education Next, Moynihan’s “findings were totally ignored by those who designed public policies at the time.” The Great Society architects would go on to expand old programs or formulate new ones that exacerbated the problems Moynihan identified. Marriage was penalized and single parenting was subsidized. In effect, the government paid mothers to keep fathers out of the home–and paid them well.

“Economists and policy analysts of the day worried about the negative incentives that had been created,” writes Mr. Peterson. “Analysts estimated that in 1975 a household head would have to earn $20,000”–or an inflation-adjusted $88,000 today–“to have more resources than what could be obtained from Great Society programs.”

History has proved that Moynihan was onto something. When the report was released, about 25% of black children and 5% of white children lived in a household headed by a single mother. During the next 20 years the black percentage would double and the racial gap would widen. Today more than 70% of all black births are to unmarried women, twice the white percentage.


Ultimately, the Moynihan report was an attempt to have an honest conversation about family breakdown and black pathology, one that most liberals still refuse to join. Faulting ghetto culture for ghetto outcomes remains largely taboo among those who have turned bad behavior into a symbol of racial authenticity. Moynihan noted that his goal was to better define a problem that many thought–mistakenly, in his view–was no big deal and would solve itself in the wake of civil-rights gains. The author’s skepticism was warranted.


Topics: ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • Mary

    This can’t be correct. In virtually all advertising I only see wholesome, healthy, intact black families. This report casts racist aspersions. Hater alert!

    • Mary

      An addendum: The assigned story in my first grade son’s reader today was about family traditions around the world. A happy, stylishly groomed black family was the “American” representative. This is completely typical. Very few White families are ever depicted in these educational materials. You just might think someone has an agenda….Nah! Couldn’t be.

      • George

        This is something you need to address with the school district.
        The materials are biased, and do not accurately reflect reality.
        It’s rather like that ghastly ‘Dora the Explorer’ bilge. All that show is good for is to teach children to yell at brown people in Spanish.

        • withcaution

          If they wanted to hear all that “reality talk”, they wouldn’t be in the school system to start with. Schools are all about teaching kids what to think not how to think.

        • Mary

          I just might. Not that I expect them to care one bit, but I’d like to air my grievances and advise that this does not go unnoticed and it is not okay. As an aside, I opened the aforementioned reader to today’s story, which illustrated a little red-haired moppet. Finally! A story about a regular White family. Not so fast. The little moppet was named “Francisco” and it told all about his Grandpa Ramos, Grandpa Perez, and their quest for tortillas. Truly, this is not about inclusion of minorities. It’s an aggressive pushing out of Whites in every sphere of society.

    • benvad


  • propagandaoftruth

    Our welfare system simply enables blacks to live their natural, r-style lifestyle.

    The policies that enable this were formulated with White people in mind. Applying White norms and behavioral assumptions to blacks never works out.

    • WR_the_realist

      There is also been a disastrous increase in white illegitimacy rates, now higher than it used to be for blacks. Moral standards for everyone have been dumbed down so that blacks won’t look too bad.

      • LHathaway

        So that we will tolerate, even exalt their behavior.

      • John Smith

        Read the article here about the true history of the Selma-Montgomery march. You can see the germs of where this behavior started.

      • SentryattheGate

        The segregationists were right! White kids should not have been exposed to decadent black culture. It “normalized” out-of-wedlock births for them–at our and society’s expense!

    • Blacks behave the same way as Whites. Race is a social construct. /sarcasm end

  • Even worse, writes Harvard’s Paul Peterson in the current issue of the journal Education Next, Moynihan’s “findings were totally ignored by those who designed public policies at the time.

    Moynihan (sorta) spoke truth to power. And what happened? That which usually happens when people speak truth to power. They find out that power creates its own truth.

    • Michael Whalen

      “Power creates its own truth.” That is a marvelous insight! I do believe that I will write that one down. Thanks, QD!

      • Yes, I have officially had it with this stupid phrase, “speak truth to power.” It’s linguistic linguine.

        • Spikeygrrl

          OK, I absolutely MUST borrow “linguistic linguine”!

      • WR_the_realist

        Power creates its own lies, and then forces the rest of us to pretend to believe it is truth. That’s why it’s called power.

    • 李冠毅

      Everyone knows that knowledge is power. However, its reverse principle “power is knowledge” have been equally influential, if less well known.

      • Maurice Miner

        Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

        The post-modern corollary:
        “Power is wonderful. Absolute power is absolutely wonderful!”

      • If knowledge was power, I’d be a dictator. If there was such a thing as the power of ideas, I’d be a despot.

  • Fredrik_H

    The main fault lies with liberalism and feminism, but race does seem to exacerbate the ill effects of those ideologies.

    In what other societies have women had the sole responsibility of raising boys to become men? Some anthropologists can probably point to some obscure culture but as far as I know, other men have had the responsibilty to teach young men what’s expected of them as grown men.

    Now men as parents are only considered important when it comes to stay home with the kids so mommy too can have a career. Or they are completely redundant – in single parenthood or same sex parent units.

    • E7 sharp 9

      Brother Nathanael Kapner might have a few words regarding who “The main fault lies with…”

    • connorhus

      Actually Feminism and Liberalism when taken to the limits like it is today begins to more closely resemble tribal African cultures. Where the Men and Women lived separate and the children were raised only by the women until they made it to manhood. The Women practiced more serial monogamy or even hyper-gamey as there was no long term relationships and if there was a “marriage” of a sort the two spouses still mostly lived separate.

      Generally speaking the further South one goes the less important long term monogamy became. I believe it has a lot to do with almost year long growing seasons and food availability with out the need to gather and store. IN many ways our make work/government funded incomes are reproducing such conditions.

  • dd121

    “Black family”. Is that an actual phrase?

    • Sick of it

      Not when so many blacks don’t know who their daddy is, let alone live with them.

      • dd121

        It seems to be a concept that exists only in the minds of people who write TV family dramas/comedy’s.

      • SentryattheGate

        “How he be yur cuzzin?” My daughter overheard black classmates ask this.

  • Evette Coutier

    Their premise is false. It attributes the breakdown of the black family on the ghetto and not on the predisposition of black behavior. Ultimately, cultural influences no longer provide ample force to overcome the predispositions of black genetics. Thus, they have degenerated back to their natural state.

  • JohnEngelman

    When criticizing blacks truth is no defense. The more accurate the criticism is, the more severe the sanctions are for being a racist.

    • LHathaway

      “The more accurate the criticism is, the more severe the sanctions are for being a racist”.

      You peaked on this one. I like your previous one better, “the more truth the statement, the more you will be punished”. It went something like that.

    • Wing-nut.

      No good deed goes unpunished.

  • Steve_in_Vermont

    This “breakdown” isn’t just in families, it’s throughout society. I attended high school in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Student behavior, including dress and language, we observe today would not have been tolerated for one minute in my school years. We allowed this to happen and are now living with the consequences, dysfunctional families being just one symptom.

    • Charles Martel

      Much of this behavior stems from the glorification of black “culture” in the media, particularly television.

      • Nonhumans

        That and from intolerance of criticism from those who claim to be the most tolerant (cough libtards).
        Honestly, sometimes its hard to decide which is worse, the nonhumans or the libtards. Then, reconsidering the whole situation, it is clearly the libtards. Their childish attitudes and mindsets disallow them from accepting and admitting their mistakes. Even worse, though, they refuse to consider any other perspective or solution to a multitude of issues.

    • SentryattheGate

      Political correctness robbed too many of their backbone, especially parents who were afraid to discipline, judge and criticize, and be an adult; too eager to be “young and hip” so their kids would think their parents are “cool”.

      • Steve_in_Vermont

        Exactly. My parents were not “friends” to my brother and I, nor was I to my children. Parents educate, (dare I say in the case of boys, “civilize”) discipline, and set examples of behavior. We taught our children to respect elders, teachers, police officers, and so forth. Foul language was not permitted. Remember when the worse thing a teacher could say was “I’m calling your parents”?. Today the students call their parents, who rush to their aid, right or wrong. We’ve fallen a long ways.

        • SentryattheGate

          Since the 60’s there has been a “culture of youth” where being young was glorified, and being older was demeaned. I recommend Diane West’s book, Death of the Grown-Up. It explains that culture, the rise of polit. correctness, the lack of backbone to repel invaders and opposing cultures.

  • Reynardine

    Under Jim Crow, there was a stronger black family than there is right now. Think about that.

    Today, whites have surpassed the old black numbers for illegitimacy.

    It’s like moral limbo: how low can you go?

  • disqus_Xz3UA6obwj

    Now that the government picks up the slack for irresponsible black parents, they are now free to do as they desire. Black men have always cared far more about having sex than raising their offspring, it’s just that now welfare makes it possible for them to act on how they truly are.

    • John Smith

      Blacks are r-strategists, while Whites are K-strategists, regarding breeding behavior. Rats, roaches, weeds and germs are also r-strategists.

      • LHathaway

        No, women won’t marry down. As they rise to the top, more and more men are excluded by them as possible marriage partners. Don’t expect them to stop having babies, though.

        • Spikeygrrl

          Any woman who has been mercilessly abused by a rich/”successful” man will gladly marry “down” to a man who has fewer degrees, a “lower” profile in professional and/or social communities, and MUCH less wealth…IF he consistently treats her as a person instead of a punching bag.

          • LHathaway

            sure, they just never do. just like they’d gladly do any job a man would do, yet strangely, the garbage collector, construction worker and auto-mechanic gap hasn’t narrowed a bit. Heck, they wont even venture out into the parking lot and gather up and push the shopping carts back inside at the local grocery store where you shop.

          • Spikeygrrl

            “sure”: “Nobody” does that…until you meet people who HAVE done that.

            But please, keep your conscience trouble-free by denying that this sort of thing even exists.

          • LHathaway

            lol, I’m supposed to feel guilty if one rich dame marries a poor guy . . . ? That should bother my conscience, if one rich girl in my town has married a broke guy making $10.00 an hour or even nothing?

            I knew this White-guilt stuff was a potent force, I just never full realized . . .

          • Spikeygrrl

            Have you yet taken your meds today?

            NOBODY except for YOU has said ANYTHING about rich WOMEN. Or about “guilt.”

            Please, do try to keep up.

          • LHathaway

            I say all kinds of things. No, it would not bother my conscience if even. . . one woman did the right thing. It wouldn’t shut me up. I will never shut up. It helps knowing, if you had your way men would only be capable of making grunting noises to each other in order to communicate. By the looks of things, we’re half-way there already.

          • Sheik Yerbouti

            Very polar examples. Please consider that MOST men don’t beat up on anyone.

          • SentryattheGate

            Most WHITE men don’t beat up on anyone! As you probably know, blacks, Muslims and Hispanics are much more violent, esp. with women!

  • Epiminondas

    It was always about making the government large and intrusive. True socialists never cared about blacks. Civil rights was always a wedge issue for them. They got what they wanted.

  • Tarczan

    One of the beliefs I have held is that the racial problem doesn’t need to be as bad as it is. This article proves it.

  • TomIron361

    I read Daniel Moynihan’s essay at the time. Everyone raved about how brilliant his piece was and then went right ahead and ignored it.

  • LHathaway

    “Marriage was penalized and single parenting was subsidized. In effect, the government paid mothers to keep fathers out of the home–and paid them well”.

    Let’s not pretend here: many of these children are better off Not having their father in the house. You could argue whether or not more men are unfit, authoritarian, abusive parents now, than 50 years ago, but some of these children are or would be better off with the father not in the home. Some of these children might even be better off taken away from the house of their single mother.

    • Lygeia

      This is very true. Getting the violent black father who would beat his wife and sons and have sex with his prepubescent daughter out of the house was often the best things that ever happened to some of these black “families.”

      • LHathaway

        The face of the women’s movement was always a white female face, these ultimate victims, the face of the civil rights movement was always a black male one, till the point we almost have a black taliban living amongst us. It’s debatable if White women are being moved from victim to privilege statue. I don’t think so. This image of female righteous indignation, or females (of all people) being shortchange is still relatively prevalent. It must remain with us for awhile longer, perhaps. It, this complete inversion of the truth, this complete lie, likely won’t need to remain with us too much longer.

        Father’s seem to need to be removed much more often than mothers but if you listen to those in the men’s movement, they will tell you mother’s are much more likely to abuse their children. It might not be as severe, and this may be true because mothers and children are likely to spend much more time together. When I see families out in public, so often, the children seem very comfortable with their mother, but their father seems almost a stranger to them.

    • Carney3

      Baby Momma ain’t sleepin’ alone. Somebody’s going to be in that bed. And children are in far more danger from an unrelated man in the house than they are from their own fathers.

  • TruthBeTold

    Moynihan’s “findings were totally ignored by those who designed public policies at the time.”

    IF there’s any ‘commemoration’ of this report, you can sure these finding will either be ignored or dismissed as ignorant and racist.

    *One must never suggest that blacks are in anyway responsible for their own problems.

  • Carney3

    The welfare state in Sweden did not destroy the social order. Illegitimacy in a formal sense eventually rose, but as a practical matter little changed because marriage was replaced, not by matriarchy, promiscuity, and uncertain paternity, but by lengthy and even permanent cohabitation. Liberals assumed that American blacks would be just as resistant to the perverse incentives of the welfare state as the Swedes.

    • What works for white Swedes does not necessarily work for US Blacks. Did we not have an article on that at Amren?

      It does not seem that illegitimate Whites in the US are severely damaged either.

      I wonder if anyone has statistics about the family life of Somali Swedes.

      Actuall, it seems that European “immigrant” parents stay together, get relatives to follow to Europe, and make as many welfare babies as possible. This is the best strategy to maximize family inome without need for work.

      German and Swedish welfare system is probably more generous than the US’. Generations can survive on lavish government support. They get tax free money, free public transport, free housing, free health care.

      While a working man pays 30% to 60 % taxes. So he would have to make US$ 7000 before taxes to get the income 4 child family receives.

  • The shocking thing to me here is that white illegitimacy used to be 1/5 that of blacks, and now it’s 1/2. In the race to the bottom, whites are ‘catching up’ as the larger culture promotes a lack of responsibility on everyone’s part. And a greater dependency on government.

    • jwilders50

      Some of it is the result of divorce laws and child support laws that essentially make it a crime to be a father.

      I think it is a rational decision on the part of most men to refuse to marry considering the long lasting legal and financial consequences. You are VERY lucky if you go through a divorce without having your good name destroyed. Few men make enough to both pay the high payments required to the mother and children, while also being able to provide for themselves.

      The men often fall behind, and then face prison on a day to day basis.

      A large percentage of divorced fathers must move out of state to avoid being thrown in jail – but as a result they are forced to lose contact with their kids.

      • Sheik Yerbouti

        And let’s not forget that a LOT of white Americans are on the dole. Most of the poor in the US are white. Some of these common factors have to be considered. Plenty of white “ghettoes” exist. The New Deal and Great Society weaken all American families. This spread we see only illustrates the obvious differences in mental and emotional fortitude. In an all-white population these gimme programs would have the same effects on society.

    • WR_the_realist

      A greater dependence on government is the principle goal of the Democrats. That is why they are never concerned about the socially destructive consequences of their policies.

  • crockadoodle6

    D Moynihan was just the canary in the coal mine. He just noticed the poison, but couldn’t or wouldn’t define the source of the poison. Remember, this was less than 30 yrs after WWII and eugenics was one of the first guilt-driven Western thought crimes. Everyone knew blacks were different (not in a good way) but most hoped it was because of ‘poverty’, ‘discrimination’, ‘lack of opportunity’, ‘legacy of slavery’, systemic racism, ‘poor education’, etc. so it could be fixed- like the Asians who thrived when discriminatory practices were removed. No one once officially mentioned the possibility of genetics even though we knew about DNA at the time.
    Treating the symptoms rather than the cause has resulted in $ trillions wasted and national divisions that are insurmountable. They are likely going to destroy this country in the near future.
    The collision of politics, good intentions, entitlements, identity politics and economy hitting the wall of reality will be like a mobile blood bank bus crashing into a bridge. And we are forced to follow hollow men because they tell us to.
    Anyway, it is obvious that we have wasted the last 50 yrs trying to make a sunflower out of a goat. We do know it is genetic, but there is even more social. academic, and political pressure to ignore it than there was 50 yrs ago……the race card. The MSM, Hollywood, professional sports.
    Now we are entering the age of redefinition. All black behavior will be forced on us as the new normal. Teen pregnancies, substance abuse, fatherless homes, petty crime, selective prosecution, hate crime, hate thought, complete dependence on government, poor English, etc, ….everything that is ‘black’ is now ‘normal’. So to be ‘normal’ you will need to adopt one, act like one, or date one. The criminal will be the one pointing out the rapist, the robber or the murderer.
    How long will this phase last until this place breaks apart like a porcelain dinner plate? Probably not long. We consumed 200 yrs of wealth equity in one generation and now we are running on debt without wealth generation other than broad agricultural commodities. We produce 6 times more lawyers than engineers annually and are owned by the IRS, NSA, DOJ, EPA and all of the other alphabet agencies who have separate armed enforcement divisions. But the kryptonite for all of this power resides in one simple sentence. ‘You are doing that because you are a racist’. Say that simple sentence and the world stops spinning, north becomes south and the heavens fall to the earth.
    The canary is still dead and now so are the miners.

  • David Ashton

    It was easier to speak out and be heard in those days. George Gilder’s “Sexual Suicide” in 1973 was pretty good, but of course he is nowadays easily dismissed as a zio-con.