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The Moynihan Report: Similarities between black and white communities

Posted by on Jan. 18, 2013 at 12:15 PM
  • 5 Replies

In 1965 the Moynihan Report predicted negative consequences for the black community, many of which have since come true.  Now similar things are coming true in the white community.  Following are two different discussions about this report:  The first is a look at how the white community is mirroring the outcomes of the black community, and the second (which is in the first post) is a look at The Moynihan Report as it pertains to the black community.


A shocking report on white families

Dec. 19, 2012
A sobering and shocking report has been written about the state of white families.  It has striking similarities to the famous Moynihan report of 1965 about black families.

Background:  In 1965, Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a sociologist by profession, published his controversial and prescient report, “The Negro Family:  The Case for National Action.”  The report detailed how the history of slavery, Jim Crow, poverty, and the massive movement of rural blacks to cities had created severe social pathologies among American blacks, most notably the marginalization of black men, the development of a matriarchal culture,  and a high rate of out-of-wedlock births and broken families. 

Moynihan predicted that the pathologies would worsen if not addressed and would have profound social, political and economic repercussions.

Now a report details similar pathologies among white families of today, with similar social, political and economic repercussions.

Actually, it is the same report, the Moynihan report. 

Well, not exactly the same.  To make it nearly the same, one just has to substitute the outdated and politically-incorrect word “Negro” in the old Moynihan report with the word “white.”  By doing so, the report will then describe the current situation among a growing number of white families (and white or brown Hispanic families). 

By some measures, the situation is even worse today for white families than it was in 1965 for black families.

Take out-of-wedlock births.  The rate of such births is higher now for whites than it was in 1965 for blacks.  It’s a similar story for divorce rates and the incidence of single-mother families. 

Moynihan wrote in 1965 that “... 21 percent of Negro women who have ever married are separated, divorced, or their husbands are absent for other reasons.”  Today, by contrast, about a third of first marriages for white women end in divorce or separation.  For black women, the figure is 47%, or more than twice as high as in 1965.

“The white family has achieved a high degree of stability and is maintaining that stability,” said Moynihan.  Unfortunately, the stability was short-lived. 

In 1965, 25% of black families were headed by a woman, versus about 12% for white families.  Today, nearly 70% of black kids and 25% of white kids are now raised by a single-parent (or grandparent), typically a female.

As in Moynihan’s day, such children are twice as likely to live in poverty and much more likely to drop out of school and to have disciplinary and behavioral problems.  Less directly noticeable are the insidious effects on the male psyche and on the economic prospects for men.

In writing about the problems experienced by males in a matriarchal culture, Moynihan said that there were really two women in charge in many black families. He quoted another sociologist, Edward Wight Bakke: 

Consider the fact that relief investigators or case workers are normally women and deal with the housewife. Already suffering a loss in prestige and authority in the family because of his failure to be the chief bread winner, the male head of the family feels deeply this obvious transfer of planning for the family's well being to two women, one of them an outsider. His role is reduced to that of errand boy to and from the relief office.

Left without a traditional societal role and not having male role models, young men don’t do as well as females in school and work.  This was true in Moynihan’s time, as he had observed, and it is true today, although you wouldn’t know it from feminist rhetoric then and now.  In Moynihan’s time, a significantly higher percentage of black girls than black boys made the honor role in school.  Today, black and white girls tend to outperform their male counterparts academically, including having higher high school and college graduation rates.

Many of today’s young white men are the stereotypical “losers,” the guys with backward caps, tattoos, few career prospects, and little likelihood of finding an industrious, careerist woman to marry.  Such women would rather stay single than hitch their future and the future of their children to a guy who is going nowhere.

It was no accident that of the blacks who made it to the middle class in 1965, most were employed and married.  Like whites, they had fewer children than unmarried blacks, because they understood that if they concentrated their resources in a smaller family, their offspring would have a better chance of success.

Moynihan saw work as the salvation for black males, a way to restore their self-worth and role in the family.  He lamented, though, that the average monthly unemployment rate for black males in 1964 was 9%.  However, as he pointed out, that figure was misleading, because some 29% of black males were unemployed at one time or another.

Today, the unemployment rate for black males is about 14%, depending on the source and how the rate is calculated; but that increases to 26% for black men without a high school degree.  By contrast, the rate for white men is 7.4%, but that rises to 12.0% for white men without a high school degree.

The unemployment rate for blacks between the ages of 16 and 24 is 28.6%, versus 14.9% for whites in that age group.

To summarize:  Today, on average, white families and white males have similar or worse pathologies than black families and black males had in 1965 when Moynihan wrote his report.  And a case can be made that it is even more difficult for white men (and black men) of today to be productive members of society and contributing husbands and fathers, given that the welfare state has grown since 1965 and made men even less necessary, important and valued.

The original Moynihan report was mostly ignored or vilified.  My updated version will no doubt have the same fate.

by on Jan. 18, 2013 at 12:15 PM
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by Ruby Member on Jan. 18, 2013 at 12:16 PM

Daniel Patrick Moynihan Predicted the Future of the Black Family But Too Few People Actually Listened

People widely panned the Moynihan Report. But looking at it now, it reads like a Nostradamus quatrain.

Author : Jamila Akil

Author's Website | Articles from

The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, the 78-page report written by a then 38-year old Daniel Patrick ‘Pat’ Moynihan, an assistant secretary of labor for policy in the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, was never supposed to see the light of day.

The Negro Family, which later came to be widely known simply as “The Moynihan Report,” did not even originally have Moynihan’s name on it’s cover–the document was only meant to be distributed to high-ranking members of the Johnson administration in order to spur discussion regarding what policies could be implemented in order to assist the Negro family with the task of fully integrating society. But, Moynihan was also issuing a warning. The Negro family was already suffering rates of familial disintegration, poverty, and out-of-wedlock pregnancy at rates far higher than white families; if something was not done soon, he warned that the problems of lower class blacks (i.e., a “tangle of pathology”) may well become self-perpetuating, if they had not become self-perpetuating already.

To the dismay of many within the Johnson administration, including Moynihan himself, the Report was leaked to the press. Black leaders and leaders were less than impressed with the way that Moynihan described the black family, using language that they felt was overly pessimistic and which blamed the victim instead of blaming the racism of whites. The usage of the phrase “tangle of pathology” to describe the multitude of problems in which lower class blacks were often enmeshed infuriated black leaders. Before the report had even been officially released to the public, articles appeared attempting to call Moynihan’s words and intentions in writing the report into question.

Eleanor Holdmes Norton, civil rights activist, graduate of Yale Law School, and feminist, was one of the few black leaders who agreed with what Moynihan wrote in his report:

As far back as the early 1970′s she had tried unsuccessfully to get civil rights leaders–most of them men–to pay more attention to the needs of black families. Discouraged by the response, she had defended the Moynihan Report to [Ken] Auletta, observing sadly, “that it had to come from a white person tells you about the failure of black leadership.” (Freedom is not enough, James T. Patterson)

Some black scholars such as Herbert G. Gutman, author of the tome’The Black family in slavery and freedom, 1750-1925′ insisted that although the black family has not come out of slavery unscathed, blacks were “resilient”–black families had retained an extended family structure to support each other and to protect against the vicissitudes of life during slavery and Jim Crow. According to the Gutman, the black family members should be praised for their adaptiveness in response to the conditions of racism. This insistence that there was really nothing wrong with black families–white racism was the real problem–deflected attention away from arguments seeking to create policies to help ‘heal’ the black family; if the black family isn’t broken, then why continue to talk about fixing it?

President Johnson, who was seeking to keep support of the Vietnam war high and needed that support in order to ramp up the war efforts, did not want to simultaneously request funds to divert towards social programs designed to assist the black poor.

And then, in mid-August of 1965, riots erupted in the Watts area of Los Angeles, California. The racial tension in the Watts neighborhood erupted into violence that lasted 6 days until being squashed by the National Guard. Despite the fact that blacks were rioting after a long period of being discriminated against and outright harassed, many white Americans began to see blacks as being ungrateful and unworthy of having their needs assuaged or their complaints addressed.

At the time the report was released, some feminists felt that too much ink was being spent writing about the problems of black men. Why should the focus be on black men when it was black women who–by working low-wage, unskilled, dead-end jobs–were raising children alone in impoverished and often violent surroundings? Moynihan was referring to the black community as being a matriarchy, yet the majority of black women were struggling just to make ends meet.

The black family continued to take a metaphorical beating while everyone was discussing and disagreeing with each other. Drugs became more easily and more widely available with black communities in the 60′s and 70′s, which lead to an increase in crime and problems related to drug addiction. Mass incarceration of black males facilitated the creation of a pseudo-prison culture among young black men.

Finally, decades after the Moynihan Report had been published, black academics, scholars, and other public figures began to speak out about effects of the disintegration of the family on black Americans. Comedian Bill Cosby gave his infamous speech before a meeting of the NAACP about the reckless behavior of lower class blacks. John McWhorter wrote Losing the Race, a book about how blacks were falling further and further behind the rest of society due to their own failure to adapt and acclimate the standards and mores that were allowing all other racial and ethnic groups to improve their standing.

Over 40 years after The Negro Family, all that has happened is talk. The Million Man March, a historic event that was supposed to encourage black men to step up and fully participate in the healing of black families had virtually no effect.

Barack Obama has done nothing directly to help black families, besides giving a few speeches in black churches where he admonishes black men for their failure to be loving husbands and fathers. Obama has talked, but he has done nothing to change policy in any way that would turn the tide on the unraveling of the black family. When 20 children were killed in a mass shooting in Newtowne, CT, the President announced proposals addressing gun control approximately 2 months later. How many black men were killed in Chicago and Detroit last year and yet the President has committed to no efforts to either modify or create new public policy to help black men or black families?

At this point, it remains highly doubtful that there will be a turning of the tide. For the last 40 plus years the trends that Moynihan pointed out, particularly that of rising rates of out-of-wedlock children, have been increasing, not just for blacks but for all Americans, although blacks still have by far the highest rate of out-of-wedlock childbearing. The black family has become ever more fragile, with fewer and fewer black children expected to grow up in a home with 2 parents. And, this at time when family structure is a better predictor of whether or not a child will be successful in life than that child’s race. Children who grow up in a single-parent home are truly the disadvantaged, just like Daniel Patrick Moynihan predicted.

by Ruby Member on Jan. 18, 2013 at 12:42 PM

Detailed version of The Moynihan Report:

by Gold Member on Jan. 18, 2013 at 12:46 PM

You have a really bad obsession you know that.

by Libertarian on Jan. 18, 2013 at 1:18 PM

 I realize this probably isn't the reply you (OP) or most others are looking for, but this is what I gained from reading this piece: The problem seems to be that we've perpetuated a culture of male dominance in a land of laws that seek to equalize the genders. Men are less likely to educate themselves and/or maintain gainful employment if they aren't the uncontested masters of the universe. Now that women have been permitted and even encouraged to work, and said women are no longer helpless dainties waiting for their "breadwinners" to come home, men have fled. I see this as a cultural issue regarding gender stereotypes that needs to be corrected.

As far as marriage and unwed mothers are concerned---I'm not even going to bother with that. The bigger issue, IMO, is the male-dominated culture, and I think divorce rates are directly linked to this.

"Roger that. Over."

R   A   D    I    O    H    E    I    D

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