A picture of minorities in America … should we be asking why?

Look at the following charts I gleaned from several sources. They don’t paint a pretty picture for minorities in America. Shouldn’t we be asking why and equally important, why things haven’t improved substantially over time?  The relative differences among us don’t seem to have changed?  What is the inherent problem we are dealing with? 

Who or what is at fault? Is it a reflection of racism or failed government programs, inadequate schooling or failing individuals? 

I don’t know the answers, but it is pretty clear that doing the same things to change this picture over and over is indeed insanity. 


4 replies »

  1. With these limited charts there seems to be a link between family values and poverty. Stereotypical Asian families value education. White families often have two parents in the household compare to other groups. Poverty breeds poverty. I am sure some think tank has researched all of this in great detail but our misplaced public policies are designed only to buy votes for short term goals rather than long term solutions.

    Every American child has two chances to get out of poverty. First, there is a free high school education. Second, there is the military to learn a trade, responsibility, and leadership skills.

    So the questions becomes how do we improve what I’ll call “parenting” of children to have a chance at a successful life? I’ll define parenting as anything from moral guidance to insisting on doing homework, staying away from drugs and being fit to join the military. Sometimes even the best parenting cannot overcome the temptations of peer pressure and street life in a bad neighborhood and even good rich parents lose their kids to drugs.

    The only thing that really is going to help is a good economy with steady jobs. It is not just a American problem, riots happen in Europe and they usually start in poor minority neighborhoods (Muslim).

    Another problem is that it may take two generations to see long term results but 40 years is a long time to wait. You have to wait to see if a child will raise his own children differently or will other world wide factors derail the progress?

    There is another solution that I do not recommend. Have another World War or a pandemic to shorten the labor supply. Both have always changed economic power but not always for the good.


  2. So where do we go from here?

    Three books by Charles Murray may help.

    Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950–1980, Basic Books (1984)

    Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010 (2012)

    Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing American Schools Back to Reality, Crown Forum (August 2008)


  3. Why haven’t we seen substantial improvement over time? Perhaps it is right there in your charts, and in other charts that you did not report.

    My point is that at least one chart (unwed mother birth rate) may be both cause and effect, but the other charts are clearly part of the effect. I think you need to display the other charts that reflect trends and challenges that may have overwhelmed War on Poverty public policies. What I believe those charts will show is that the War on Poverty has been primarily focused on solving the problem as it existed in the 1960’s – and to some extent is has. In the 1960’s, 30% of seniors over age 65 living in poverty. Today, poverty among older Americans has declined to about 11% – although it is not clear how much of that is attributable to public policies. And, given that 2/3rds of the population over age 65 seem to have been lifted out of poverty (measured as percentages of the total population), doesn’t that make the numbers in your charts seem EVEN WORSE!!!!!

    I believe many of the other facets of the challenge are not represented in the charts you displayed. Care to display, also, a chart on educational attainment? Don’t we need a chart that reflects how employment opportunities in America have changed since the 1960’s – in terms of the types of work (try looking, for example, at the dramatic decline in jobs in farming, in coal mining, in steel production, and yes, in manufacturing)? Some of that is good news – significant improvements in productivity through capital investment and education, which lift everyday America’s standard of living.

    How about a few charts that don’t show simple averages – perhaps dig down deeper a couple of times to show data on a quintile basis. That is, I know averages can be quite misleading – one of my actuary betters used to say – you take a dead guy, put his head in the oven, his feet in the freezer, his average temp is 98.6, but he’s still dead. My point is, other charts are missing that reflect the causes of the effects you display.

    Have government programs failed? Sure, isn’t that obvious? However, you could make millions if you could come up with the formula for identifying solutions where success is certain 40 – 50 years later. Perhaps the federal government failed by “falling asleep at the switch” and failing to adjust. And, perhaps all such programs haven’t failed, perhaps they need more time. Should we pull the plug on the Clinton-era welfare-reform – have we given it enough time (20 years) to surface results? Are you willing to give up on tens of millions of individuals to wait it out to find out whether it was part of THE formula for long term success?

    Finally, I would note that I was 18 in 1970. My dad died in December 1969. My mom had no steady income. If you measured us on 12/31/69, we were a family in poverty – we had debts, two children in college scraping by on scholarships and work programs, me, a 17 year old getting ready to go off to college in September 1970, two other children, ages 15 and 5 still at home. Even if you emancipate the two in college, for a family of three the household income threshold was $3,113. Not like dad left a big life insurance payoff – there was only a nominal job related benefit for burial purposes. Found out quickly that as a family, couldn’t make a go of it on Social Security survivor benefits alone.

    After I left home to join the military, in the early 1970’s, my income almost qualified me for poverty status. Even today, while I lack steady, indefinite employment, I am probably in the top third due to pension benefits. So, not all of us who were in poverty (as measured by household income) in 1970 are still in poverty in 2016. My point is that 10% of white folk living in poverty 1970 is not the same people today. Some moved out of poverty, others lapsed into poverty? I don’t know. I know the programs have failed in some respects if your expectations were that such spending based on policies implemented in the 1960’s and 1970’s would indefinitely lift families out of poverty through the 1980’s, 1990’s, 2000’s, and 2010’s AND keep other families from falling into poverty. As a result, depending on your expectations, these results look like this was sustaining and dependency-creating, not liberating families from the clutches of poverty.

    If we are going to have a debate on the War on Poverty, we need to see charts reflecting time series data, starting in the 20’s (before welfare programs and the War on Poverty) through 2016. Perhaps we were on our way in the mid-1960’s to an even worse result! Has anyone done that?


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