“The Flawed ‘Missing Men’ Theory,” by Kay Hymowitz. The Wall Street Journal, 8/10/2015.
The disproportionate number of black males locked up in prison is now often cited as a cause of the fatherless black family. They can hardly be part of the family if they are locked up, goes the reasoning. Hillary Clinton mentioned it in an early political speech. The disproportionate number of blacks in prison is also cited as a sign of unequal law enforcement rather than as evidence of who is committing the crimes.
The data shows the black family structure was in trouble well before the jump in black prison population in the 1990s. In 1965, births to single black women reached 24%, enough for the liberal Senator Daniel Patrick Moynahan to issue a report, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” But that was just the beginning. All through the late 1960s and early 1970s, nonmarital black births continued to race upward.
During this time, the prison population of black men held steady at about 25,000. The incarcerations rose later, peaking in 2009 at an astonishing 257,000, a 10-fold increase. Rather than the incarceration of black men as the cause of the fatherless black families, the timeline suggests the opposite: It was the fatherless black family that caused the high proportion of black men to be incarcerated.
To be clear, black families do not want to fail, black men do not want to be locked up. The sociology undoubtedly needs fixing, which can only happen by identifying the correct cause, not chasing imaginary devils.
(In my visits to Florida, I have frequently seen huge cheerful, welcoming black family reunions held in public picnic areas. When the black family works, it works so well, I would think anyone would want to be part of it. My wife joined this family group as I took their photo.)