Writing intermittently on life, politics, and society

I’ll try to be polite

I was doing my daily read when I came across this article by Mitch Albom, the fellow who wrote Tuesdays With Morrie, which has left me feeling quite annoyed.

My beef is that he inexplicably segues from a “growing problem” in the African American circles of the sports world, to African Americans generally (then back again), and seems to be making the argument that out of wedlock birth is cultural for African Americans:

No, African Americans aren’t the only ones having kids out of wedlock. But, yes, the news is worst in that community, where, in recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics, 72% of new babies were born out of wedlock, versus 28% among whites and 17% among Asians. This is not in the skin. It is not about color. It’s about culture. And if the culture doesn’t change, neither will the pattern.

I’m inferring Albom’s  premise is that the 72% (which you can find on page 6 of this report) is due to some deficiency in African American culture. However the data doesn’t support that. If you look at page 56 of this report from the National Center for Health Statistics you will see that while it shows an uptick in the birth rate for 2006, the general trend has been a decline in the birthrate of unwed black mothers since 1980.

What that suggests is that unmarried black women on the whole are having less children out of wedlock than they did say ten to twenty years ago. Now, irresponsible men and women certainly exist, but it is a mistake to point to them and their “culture” as the cause of the 72% rate of out of wedlock birth amongst African Americans. As Ta-Nehisi Coates has already pointed out, you get a better grasp of the situation when you look at the behaviour of married black women:

The rates for married black women haven’t just declined, they’re actually lower than for married white women:

It is important to realize that the “percent of births” is not a birth rate. The birth rate is the number of births for every 1,000 women in a specific category. The last marital birth rates calculated by the National Center for Health Statistics were for 2002. In 2002, the black marital birth rate was 64.9 births for every 1,000 married black women. The white marital birth rate was 88.2 for every 1,000 married white women. The black marital birth rate was 23.3 births less than the white rate. In the past, the black marital birth rate was higher than the white rate. Because there is such a low number of births among married black women, the percent of births to unmarried black women is especially high.


One response

  1. Pingback: Have him put a ring on it «

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