We've been told, quite frequently and repeatedly that the problems in the black community that we've seen in Ferguson and Baltimore recently are not the fault of biased, paramilitary, paranoid and violent policing (even if the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that black people are three times more likely to be subject to law enforcement uses of force). They are not the fault of racist red-lining that created these impoverished neighborhoods in the first place. They are not the fault of bigoted lending and hiring practices that create roadblocks for those attempting to escape those neighborhoods. And the fact that black students are disciplined, suspended and expelled far more easily and quickly for the same or lesser offenses, isn't the problem. None of that is the problem. Nope. All of that is just too bad. Life is tough all over. Lots of people have got lots of problems. No, instead we've heard that the welfare benefits in Baltimore are "too lucrative," because when you give people nothing they somehow get more, somewhere. That businesses won't invest in these neighborhoods until something is done about those darn teachers unions. That it's because of "too many gay marriages." That ISIS is using Baltimore to recruit blacks. And, of course, when all else fails, blame Obama. But what we've heard the most, is that the real problem is the Breakdown in the Black Family™. That too many black fathers have abandoned their children, allowing them to be raised by the streets like feral cats. They don't learn morals, and they don't learn values—so naturally police have to shoot them down like rabid, foaming dogs. Even when they're unarmed. Even when they have their backs turned and are simply running away. It's all just their own fault really. If only black fathers would spend as much time and energy on their kids as white fathers do. If only... Well, someone—the Centers for Disease Control—actually went to trouble of checking just how involved in their lives all fathers are, whether or not they are married to the mother of their children or live with them. What they found was that, in reality, black fathers are actually more attentive to their children than other fathers generally are.
Imagine that? Details over the flip.
Some of the relevant highlights from the CDC study as posted at Think Progress.
Considering the fact that “black fatherhood” is a phrase that is almost always accompanied by the word “crisis” in U.S. society, it’s understandable that the CDC’s results seem innovative. But in reality, the new data builds upon years of research that’s concluded that hands-on parenting is similar among dads of all races. There’s plenty of scientific evidence to bust this racially-biased myth. [...] Although black fathers are more likely to live separately from their children—the statistic that’s usually trotted out to prove the parenting “crisis”—many of them remain just as involved in their kids’ lives. Pew estimates that 67 percent of black dads who don’t live with their kids see them at least once a month, compared to 59 percent of white dads and just 32 percent of Hispanic dads. And there’s compelling evidence that number of black dads living apart from their kids stems from structural systems of inequality and poverty, not the unfounded assumption that African-American men somehow place less value on parenting. Equal numbers of black dads and white dads tend to agree that it’s important to be a father who provides emotional support, discipline, and moral guidance. There’s one area of divergence in the way the two groups approach their parental responsibilities: Black dads are even more likely to think it’s important to financially provide for their children.
So, of course, parents should be involved in the lives of their children. Of course they should help guide them, give them a sense of morality, goals and direction. But that doesn't require that the father necessarily be married to the mother. People like Donald Trump have certainly made that obvious. The nuclear family myth has long ago been blown into small dust-like bits. Many of us live in extended and blended house-holds within which we've all learned to adapt, and function and even thrive. Perhaps it's time we stopped flogging the simplistic notion that all that truly plagues the black community is a lack of weddings. 12:03 PM PT: To be fair and complete, as pointed out in the comments, there is a significant difference in the rate of single-parent families across racial lines as this chart from the KidCount Datacenter shows here:
However this is actually the rate of marriages across racial groups and not a direction correlation to the percentage of those who are living with, or living apart from their children as noted in the CDC report.
Definitions: Children under age 18 who live with their own single parent either in a family or subfamily.
In this definition, single-parent families may include cohabiting couples and do not include children living with married stepparents. Children who live in group quarters (for example, institutions, dormitories, or group homes) are not included in this calculation.
This really is a difference in the rate of marriages, so it is isn't really a perfect correlation for those living with, or apart, from their children. Here's a couple snap shots from the Census Bureau on Children Living with a single or both parents regardless of marriage.
These do show a difference in the percentage of children living with one parent (the mother only) vs two parents between White (18%), Latino or Hispanic (24%) and Black (50%) households. But what's interesting is the percentage who live with their father only (White - 3.8%, Hispanic - 3.0%, Black - 4.3%) which is also higher. Does this invalidate the CDC analysis? Well, no. There is a lower marriage rate among black people and that does seem to have an effect on how many of them are living with vs living apart from their children. But the level of involvement, of parenting, across racial lines from men in either of those two living situations - is not that significantly different. In fact, more Black fathers who live apart from their children in most measurements are actually far more involved in their children's lives [in some cases by nearly a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio] which may be a direct result, and/or offset, to the fact that far more of them are in that situation percentage-wise.
5:11 PM PT: Couple more thoughts:
One of the problems with the assumption that a Nuclear Family is the "best" family for raising children is the reality that not all biological parents provide the best guidance, example, or have the best of relationship with each other. Things can turn abusive, violent and sometimes deadly. Quite often the weapons used in this disputes, is a gun.
Firearms were used to kill more than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims between 1990 and 2005.2
Domestic violence assaults involving a firearm are 12 times more likely to result in death than those involving other weapons or bodily force.3
Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm.4
A recent survey of female domestic violence shelter residents in California found that more than one third (36.7%) reported having been threatened or harmed with a firearm.5 In nearly two thirds (64.5%) of the households that contained a firearm, the intimate partner had used the firearm against the victim, usually threatening to shoot or kill the victim.6
So that's one reason why some moms and dads shouldn't live together.
Another factor on the "Nuclear Family" ideas is the fact that many of these studies don't take into account the impact of the extended family, grand-parents, uncles, aunts, older siblings and cousins can have on the child-rearing processes. Parenting sometimes takes more than just the actual parents themselves, particular when both of them need to work to make end-meet, and there are other day-care and babysitting issues that need to be addressed. Two out of our last three serving Presidents were raised in single-parent homes with the support of extended family, so clearly - it's not hopeless.
Lastly it strikes me that there can be inherent problems at looking at an internal proportional number, when the external proportion may be at an far larger differential. To wit: there are almost five times as many White people in America as they are Black. So if you were to take the single-parent percentages for each and multiply them against the numbers of actual children involved what you would see is this:
Hispanic Children in Single-Parent Households: 28.6% x 16.3 Million = 4.66 Million
Black Children in Single-Parent Households: 54.7% x 11.2 Million = 6.12 Million.
[Corrected] White Children in Single-Parent Households: 22.1% x 55.9 Million = 12.3 Million.
So even with an almost twice as high internal percentage of single-parent households, the external percentage is that there are still only
one third one half as many black children living in that situation as there are white, and when you add this greater quantity of white "at risk" youth to the CDC data it seems that the quality of some of that white parenting may not be quite a strong.
But we don't really hear much about the single-parenting crisis of absent White Fathers, now do we? And we don't see our jails filled to the brim with the failed results of these millions of white single-parent households even with a 2:1 gap in actual numbers, instead we see it filled far more frequently, with black men who afterward can't really be good, attentive Fathers anymore, now can they? And perhaps that, excessive incarceration, is the source for the internal percentage differential in the first place.
Wed May 13, 2015 at 1:26 PM PT: I've gotten some pushback on twitter claiming I have failed to "debunk" the Black Father Myth. Well, part of the point of a myth is that it itself isn't really "proven" in the first place. For example even some of the links provided by naysayers in the comments don't necessary make that case when describing the better outcomes that are typically associated with the children of married couples.
Is it simply because they have, on average, higher family incomes? (Two earners are better than one, and one household is cheaper to run than two.) Or are two committed spouses better able to provide consistent parenting? Is it marriage itself that matters, or is marriage the visible expression of other factors, that are the true cause of different outcomes? And if so, which ones?
It is usually using the disparity in marriage rates among the races that people usually draw the conclusion that there is a "crisis" in black families, and that their is a deficit in black fathers. Those numbers as I previously showed in my first update are as follows:
White Single Families: 25% Hispanic Single Families: 42% Black Single Families: 67%
People usually look at these numbers alone and go "Aha, there's your problem", but I think this is a gross oversimplification of far more complex real life situations. I showed this in the second part of that update when I noted that not being married doesn't really mean that the parent is "absent" as a good percentage of families may live together but remain unmarried.
Single Parent Living Arrangements White 22.1%
Hispanic 28.6% Black 54.7%
So as you can see although the figures don't change much from married White couples with children to cohabiting but unmarried parents, it drops 14% for Hispanics and 13% for Blacks. Another issue I addressed in the 2nd update which is rarely addressed by those who fault marriages alone as being the big problem with Black child-rearing is the issue of blended families. There are many cases which the married/unmarried statistic fail to address when the mother may not be living with or married to the father, but is instead living with and/or married to someone else.
There are no recent estimates on the percentage of children residing in blended families.
These statistics underestimate the number of U.S. blended families, because...
To date, government reporting of population figures indicate families in which the child resides. So if the child lives with a divorced, single parent and the other nonresident parent has remarried, the child is not included in the calculations as being a member of a blended family.
Estimates suggest that many children living in a "single parent household" (as designated by the Census Bureau) are actually living with two adults. Thus, their best estimates indicate that about 25% of current blended families are actually cohabiting couples.
40% of married couples with children (i.e., families) in the US are stepcouples (at least one partner had a child from a previous relationship before marriage; this includes full and part-time residential stepfamilies and those with children under and/or over the age of 18). The percentage of all married couple households is 35%. (Karney, Garvan, & Thomas, 2003)
All of this means that the census bureau's data of "living arrangements" can be off by as much as 25% when dealing with blended families situations and even their much lower figures of Hispanic and Black single parent living arrangements could in fact be far, far lower than shown.
So the bottom line issue, once we get back to the CDC figures on how much fathers across the various races actually do the real working of parenting rather than just being nearby or within the same house - can we definitively say that qualitative difference proportionally overwhelms the quantitative [but grossly incomplete] data that proponents of the "Black Fathers Suck" faction seem to espouse?
I don't know.
Frankly, because the data is incomplete and there isn't as far as I can tell a breakdown of blended families by race, I honestly can't tell. And that's why I didn't get into this subject in more detail earlier, it's a wash. But the incompleteness of the data also shows that absent Black Fathers Myth, isn't proven either. In fact without full, complete, and accurate numbers - it can't be proven.
However, what the CDC info does show is that pound for pound, on a family by family average basis Black fathers are generally more attentive to their children whether the live with them or apart from them, and even using the Census Bureau numbers there are far more White Children "at risk" from their less attentive and absent fathers than there are Black. Shouldn't that be the larger concern if missing fathers truly are the "crisis" some people claim it is?