Examining nearly a century of U.S. census reports, Ricketts found that between 1890 and 1950, blacks had higher marriage rates than whites. Until 1970, black women were more likely to get married than white women -- and that was despite the high mortality rates among black men, leaving fewer available for marriage. In three of four decennial years between 1890 and 1920, black men out-married white men.
(You all really should read Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama. It's chock-full of interesting facts like this.)
Whatever else may cause illegitimacy and its associated problems, it isn't poverty, discrimination, lack of education, unemployment or slavery. Black Americans had all those handicaps -- and yet they still had strong families and low crime rates from 1890 until the 1960s.
But in the '60s, liberals decided it would be a great idea to start subsidizing illegitimacy.
Everyone knew -- even FDR's secretary of labor, Francis Perkins, knew -- that granting widows' benefits to unmarried women with illegitimate children would have disastrous consequences. An early 20th-century social welfare advocate, Homer Folks, warned back in 1914 that to grant pensions for "desertion or illegitimacy would, undoubtedly, have the effect of a premium upon these crimes against society."
But under President Lyndon Johnson, that's exactly what the government did. The "suitable home" requirements for welfare -- such as having a husband -- were jettisoned by liberal know-it-alls in the federal Bureau of Public Assistance. As a result, illegitimacy went through the roof, particularly among blacks, our most vulnerable fellow citizens.
In 1970, for the first time, the marriage rate for black women fell below 70 percent. But even then, a majority of black children were still living with both parents. By 2010, only 30.1 percent of blacks above the age of 15 were married, compared to 52.7 percent of whites.
Liberals keep using the bad consequences of their policies as an argument for more of the same policies. Government subsidies to unwed mothers increase the illegitimacy rate, which in turn leads to poverty, criminal behavior and more illegitimacy. So Democrats reverse cause and effect to claim it's the poverty that causes illegitimacy and then demand more payments to unwed mothers.
But we know poverty does not cause illegitimacy. The black experience from 1890 to 1960 proves it. It's the reverse, just as Bill O'Reilly said. If African-Americans started marrying again at their pre-Great Society rates, it would wipe out the entire black "culture of poverty."
Nor is there a speck of evidence that poverty causes crime. Murder is the only crime that has been reliably tracked since 1900. From the turn of the century right up to the early 1930s, the murder rate rose steadily, with a few peaks and valleys. Then it began a noticeable decline right at the beginning of the Great Depression, remaining low until the mid-1940s, and rising again only at the end of the Depression.
The converse happened during the economic boom of the "go-go" '80s. The homicide rate shot up in the 1970s and stayed high until the mid-1990s. Both the homicide rate and general crime rate have remained at all-time lows through the economic wasteland of the Obama years. (Thanks to Republican crime policies.)
So while it's fascinating that Moynihan concluded that slavery was awful (I think we knew that!), O'Reilly is absolutely right that it's illegitimacy driving the black crime rate.