Statistics have significance, but the numbers behind the statistics mean even more. For example, examine statistics about the American family, specifically births to unmarried mothers, a rising trend in black, Hispanic and white families. It is accepted that this is a crisis in black (African-American) community where 72.1 percent of children are born to unmarried women. For Hispanics the figure is 53.4 and for whites 35.9 percent and all rising.
That was the focus of President Barack Obama’s new initiative, “My Brother’s Keeper” announced a couple of weeks ago and aimed squarely and exclusively at the minority community. Working with a coalition of private foundations and government, he proposed broad programs aimed at pre-kindergarden, third grade reading, not kicking students out of school for disciplinary problems, re-establishing the civil rights era voting rights laws, and incentivizing employers to train and hire these disadvantaged young people.
The White House also proposed to expand the earned income tax credit and public housing funds to cover workers who do not care for children. This is aimed at helping absent fathers on the theory that getting money out of them is a futile enterprise. A New York Times writer, Eduardo Porter, contends that all the present policy of pursuing dead-beat fathers is to drive them further into poverty.
That, he contends, as others do, drives black men into crime and the underground economy (presumably the same thing). That’s why, he says, incarceration rates have multiplied by five over the last 35 years. Most imprisoned are young black men and half of those have children. Help, rather than punishment, “might actually help low-income men and women offer their children a better deal.”
All well and good. Present policies don’t appear to be working. Try something new. However, there is a flaw in the use of the statistics. Look at the numbers. If we use numbers rather than percentages, the real crisis is in the white population.
The number of births to unmarried white women is 15 times the number of blacks or Hispanics combined, or 30 times either of the groupings. In all there are an estimated 1,600,000 births to unwed mothers. If we assume the racial birth rates are the same (although blacks have more abortions than whites), and the percentages of race stay the same (w, 77.9 per cent; b, 13.1; H, 16.9), there will be 1,246,000 white births of those totals.
Messing with statistics is always dicey, but however one cuts it, there are far more whites than blacks or Hispanics, and the crisis, by numbers, is every bit as serious for whites as for others. The pressure, however, is on society as a whole. If it is accepted that absent fathers are at the root of poverty, crime and incarceration, then this is more than just a minority problem.