Walter E. Williams

Blacks and Hispanics, especially blacks, are the most politically loyal people in the nation. It's often preached and taken as gospel that the only way black people can progress is through racial politics and government programs, but how true is that? Let's look at it.

In 1940, poverty among black families was 87 percent and fell to 47 percent by 1960. Would someone tell me what anti-poverty program or civil-rights legislation accounted for this economic advance that exceeded any other 20-year interval? A significant chunk of that progress occurred through migration from rural areas in the South to big Northern cities. Between 1960 and 1980, black poverty fell roughly 17 percent and fell one percent during the '70s. Might this have been a continuation of a trend starting much earlier, or was it a miracle of the civil-rights movement or President Johnson's War on Poverty?

Dr. Thomas Sowell's research points out that in various skilled trades, the incomes of blacks relative to whites more than doubled between 1936 and 1959. What's more, the rise of blacks in professional and other high-level occupations was greater during the five years preceding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than the five years afterward.

In 1940, 86 percent of black children were born inside marriage, and the illegitimacy rate among blacks was about 15 percent. Today, 31 percent of black children are born inside marriage, and the illegitimacy rate hovers around 70 percent.

In the mid-1960s, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan sounded the alarm for the breakdown in the black family in his book "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action." At that time, black illegitimacy was 26 percent. Moynihan said, "[A]t the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of the Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family." He added, "The steady expansion of welfare programs can be taken as a measure of the steady disintegration of the Negro family structure over the past generation in the United States."

Moynihan's observations were greeted with charges of racism and blaming the victim. If one accepts that a weak family structure has devastating effects on well-being, pray tell us what solutions can be found by electing Republicans or Democrats to the Congress, Senate or White House. By the way, today's growing illegitimacy among whites is what it was among blacks in the 1960s.

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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