Campaign Issues 2016 2.

Republicans say that the “War on Poverty” has been lost.[1]  Democrats say that it hasn’t been won, yet.  According to the New York Times, the conservative stereotype of poor people is that they’re criminals or they’re lazy.[2]  According to conservatives, the conservative stereotype of poor people is that they’re intelligent and entrepreneurial, but that liberals have created a set of incentives to dependency.  Is there any indication of who is more nearly correct?

According to the Census Bureau,[3] in 2011, there were 76 million families.  Of these, 55.5 million consisted of married couples, and 20.5 million consisted of Other families.  Among those Other families, 5.4 million were male-headed and 15.1 million were female headed.  So, 73 percent were married couples and 27 percent were Other families.  Among Other families, 73.6 percent were female-headed households and 26.4 percent were male-headed households.

White, non-Hispanics accounted for 52 million of the households.  Of these, 41.5 million consisted of married couples and, 10.5 million consisted of Other families.  Among those Other families, 3 million were male-headed and 7.5 million were female-headed.  So, 80 percent were married couples and 20 percent were Other families.  Among Other families, 71 percent were female-headed households and 29 percent were male-headed households.

African-Americans accounted for 8.7 million of the households.  Of these, 3.8 million consisted of married couples and 4.9 million consisted of Other families.  Among those Other families, 800,000 were male-headed and 4.1 million were female-headed.  So, 43 percent were married couples and 56 percent were Other families.  Among Other families, 83 percent were female-headed and 17 percent were female-headed.

Married couples are much less common among African-Americans (43 percent) than among White non-Hispanics (80 percent) or the national average (73 percent).  Other families are much more common among African-Americans (56 percent) than among White non-Hispanics (20 percent) or the national average (27 percent).  Female-headed households are somewhat more common among African-Americans (83 percent) than among White non-Hispanics (71 percent) or the national average (73.6 percent).  African-Americans account for 27.1 percent of the female-headed households, while African-Americans account for about 14 percent of the population.

Current anti-poverty programs include food stamps, housing subsidies, and various tax-credits like the earned-income tax credit and the child tax credit.  People can obtain these benefits provided that they remain poor.  Raise your income and lose the benefits.

Back in 1965, Daniel Moynihan published The Negro Family: The Case for Action.[4]  He concluded that “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.”  In short, Uncle Sam displaced black fathers.  While there is a lot to criticize here, it is also possible to argue that part of poverty is volitional: don’t have kids outside of marriage; stay in school and don’t disrupt class, then go to a community college; get a job, even if it is a crummy one; then trade-up to better jobs.  This issue will not be discussed in the 2016 election.

[1] Oddly, they never say that about the “War on Drugs.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3SysxG6yoE  It can be argued that the War on Drugs and the War on Cancer were Republican distractions or alternatives to the War on Poverty.

[2] David M. Herszenhorn, “Antipoverty Plan Skimps on Details and History,” NYT, 15 June 2016.

[3] See: https://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/p20-570.pdf

[4] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Negro_Family:_The_Case_For_National_Action.

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