Why The Slowing Of Black Progress?

Gary Becker’s answer:

Why did the progress of blacks stop well short of achieving full equality with whites, and is the slowdown during the past 20 years in black progress only temporary, or is it an indication of what the racial situation will be during the next few decades? The sharp slowdown is surprising mainly because institutionalized and personal discrimination against African-Americans has continued to fall into this century. Probably the most important offset to the decline in discrimination is the rapid growth since the 1960’s in the fraction of black children raised in households with only one or no parents-these households also grew among whites, but at a much slower pace. Moreover, white single parent households mainly arise from a divorce between parents who had their children while married (or while living together), whereas never-married and quite young mothers raise many black children.

In addition, there is social pressure on young blacks growing up in segregated neighborhoods to engage in crime, including selling drugs, and to not “act white”, where acting white sometime is taken to mean studying hard and investing in one’s human capital. These pressures act more on black boys rather than girls, which help explain why the achievements of black women are much closer to those of white women than is the gap between black and white men.

It is too early to tell whether these and other forces that have prevented blacks from achieving full parity with whites are temporary or more long lasting. A disturbing fact is that growing up in families that invest less in their children casts a long shadow since children brought up in these families tend also to invest less in their children. This process gets to be repeated to some degree over subsequent generations.

This is one of the reasons why I am not a liberal. The problems of poverty today are not discriminatory in nature, they tend to be cultural and family related, problems that are far better addressed on the right than on the left. Arnold Kling has more here.

89 Responses to “Why The Slowing Of Black Progress?”


  • A few years ago, there was an interesting article in _The Economist_ discussing comparisons between American Blacks and immigrant Blacks from Africa and the Caribbean. The immigrants had household incomes similar to Whites and Asians.

    The article refused to make conclusions, but it noted that a number of Black leaders, such as Gates at Harvard, were pushing for affirmative action to exclude immigrants and be reserved only for American-born and descended Blacks.

  • I find interesting your comment about the problems of poverty being more culturally and family related. I don’t know if you ever discussed this specific issue I am going to raise, since I only recently started reading your blog. I will give my cultural background, my parents are Cuban, and I am first born in the States. Now, I can tell you that for 22 years till the day my father got sick and went into the hospital, we had dinner every single night as a family, and my sister and I knew “what time dinner was” and we sure better be at the table by the time my father took his seat. For me, this was perfectly normal, I remember being surprised when I found out this was not the norm among my non-Hispanic friends, I thought family dinner was the same in most every household, at least the ones of my peers, the ones I went to school with. I remember at one point doing a poll where I just went and asked most of them if they had dinner together as a family every night. My Hispanic friends (mostly Cuban, but a good mix of South and Central America is there too, most every Latin nation was represented, as was Europe with a few Spaniards and Basques, I know the Basques are not Hispanic, but the Spanish influence is there) all said “yes” to every night, or most every night, and the rest all said “no” or “never” and “once in a while”. I am not saying that “family dinner time” is a key or pertinent factor, but I know that most of “right or wrong” and “study so you don’t have to work busting your ass in the hot sun” was learned over vaca frita, arroz y frijoles negros, y platanos maduros.

  • Agreed. A strong family does more to reduce poverty than any government program can ever do. It’s so easy yet so difficult at the same time.

    Thanks for the story!

  • As a model of “hispanic” progress I’m sure you had many breakfast and dinners with your parents ..right HP..eating your confleis for breakfast and frijolitos with a glass of cu-ley for dinner. Cause we all now that eating dinner together is much more importante than the slashing and cutting of social programs by Reagan during the 1980’s right. Afterall we were taught during the 1980’s that too be succesful all we had to do was follow the three demandments of saying your payers, eating your vitamins, and believing in the hulkamania……So what you gonna do brother when the social spending programs for black are cut for you?

    What real evidence did he show for the fall of discrimination?
    Historically why did segregation happen? Now, although illegal, it still happens…why?
    “Acting white” needs to be problematized….Are students “not learning” because it means studying hard and investing in one’s human capital or could it be because they resist engaging in a process of miseducation that denies them the opportunity to learn and engage of who they are and the historicity of black resistance and struggle to racism and oppression [aside from the occasional mention of MLK or the happy days when blacks were slaves]…. Schooling is a subtractive element for these students, it robs them of their identities as black men–same thing happens to “hispanics”

    How do we define a strong family? The reality is that Bush policies will have set lower income African American back even further…BUt we know if they only had a stronger desire and tried harder to invest in human capital everything would be fine…

  • Yes Gerardo, and we all know that the real problem really is racism and the need for more government programs…

    This is again why I can never be a liberal. Most liberals can’t even bring themselves to admit that the problem is more cultural than financial, that alot of it is unreachable by government programs, and that alot of it does have to do with the family. In other words, they can’t even properly diagnose the problem let alone try and work towards a solution.

    I’m curious Gerardo, what do you think of this and this?

  • The hispanic pundit is absurd. Foreign born blacks’ relative success compared to native born blacks comes from their not having the psychological trauma of being under an American foot. If you punch one guy in the face and then replace him with another guy you did not punch or only thought about punching, one would be bleeding and the other not.

  • Hispanics are the new negroes so watch your back hispanic pundit.

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