The Black Family: Good News, Bad News, Or No News?
If you read a different newspaper sometimes you get a different point of view.
That is what I discovered with two articles from prominent national newspapers this month.
On December 6 Kay Hymowitz of the Washington Post published an article called “An Enduring Crisis for the Black Family”. In it she hit all the regular talking points that anyone with passing familiarity with sociology and the black community know by heart: 1965 Daniel Patrick Moynihan report, single parent families and absent fathers.
“In some neighborhoods, two-parent families have vanished,” Hymowitz writes. “In parts of Newark and Philadelphia, for example, it is common to find children who are not only growing up without their fathers but don’t know anyone who is living with his or her biological father.”
But on December 17 new census data reveals a rise in two parent households in the black community.
According to the bureau’s estimates, the number of black children living with two parents was 59 percent in 1970, falling to 42 percent in 1980, 38 percent in 1990 and 35 percent in 2004. In 2007, the latest year for which data is available, it was 40 percent.
What helped to bring on the increase was the number of black children living with unmarried parents.
“I think the news is that the Census Bureau estimates that about 3 percent of American children are living with two unmarried parents,” said Andrew J. Cherlin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University, “Because of the increases in living-together relationships, this is probably a higher figure than a generation ago.”
Before 2007 a child living with two unmarried parents was usually classified as living with the mother or the father, depending on who was the head of the household.
Hymowitz even weighed in on this uptick. “What we might be seeing is more cohabitation.” she said.
What I find most interesting is the discounting of the “invisible parent” before but now that cohabitation is on the rise people parents living together are getting counted. What they need to do now is to examine the stability of unmarried two parent families. Is the mother the main breadwinner or is she just the leasee or mortgage holder? Is one of the parents married to someone else and living with the father of the last few kids? Have they been living together for years and have never decided to make it legal under the “white man’s law”?
I know couples who fit in the above categories.
The lesson I took away from both articles is that before we start sounding the death knell in the black community about black families, we might want to actually check and see what is going on.