Birth Rates, Illegitimacy, and Social Stability

By Gary North (, March 20, 2013

The 1965 Moynihan report [in the US] was a bombshell. It reported on black illegitimacy rates. They had climbed to 25%. He warned that this figure was a tipping point. If it went higher, the black community would become dysfunctional. The rate went higher. The black community became dysfunctional.

It’s at 70%. There it has stayed for two decades.

The white rate has climbed, too. The total national illegitimacy rate is now over 40%. A summary of these figures is here.

We see how bad things can get when we view inner-city ghetto life. Blacks could not resist the welfare state offers of guaranteed support. The inner-city schools were more consistent than in white communities. They are rotten. We all know it. No reform has reversed the decline.

Unless things change, the future is Detroit.

But things can change. It is expensive, but they can change. The problem is, no federal government policy fosters widespread positive change in families. Across the board, the social programs of the federal government have produced failure. Now the welfare state is getting more acceptable among whites.

Charles Murray’s book, Coming Apart, on the white lower middle class, reveals the decline. These communities are beginning to resemble inner-city ghettos: crime, poor schools, illegitimacy, divorce, single mother households, welfare dependency. The decline has been steady since 1970.

This time, liberals are giving Murray favourable reviews. His previous books were savagely attacked. In a New York Times article, we read this.

In his new book, “Coming Apart,” Murray flips the script that has energized Republican politics and campaigns since Richard Nixon: the white working class, he argues, is no longer part of a virtuous silent majority. Instead, beginning in the early 1960s, it has become increasingly alienated from what Murray calls “the founding virtues” of civic life. “Our nation is coming apart at the seams,” Murray warns — “not ethnic seams, but the seams of class.”

Using a statistical construct he calls Fishtown — inspired by an actual white, blue-collar neighborhood of the same name in Philadelphia — Murray sorts through demographic data to present a startling picture. Women in Fishtown now routinely have children outside of marriage. Less than a third of its children grow up in households that include both biological parents. The men claim physical disability at astounding rates and are less likely to hold down jobs than in the past. Churchgoing among the white working class has declined, eroding the social capital that organized religion once provided.

Illegitimacy, crime, joblessness — these are not merely the much debated pathologies of a black underclass, Murray finds. They are white people problems too.

For as long as the welfare checks keep coming, the decline will go on. We are now in default mode: sinful behaviour, when subsidized by the government, spreads inside the present-oriented, lower-class segments of society. Then it spreads to the lower middle class, then to the middle class. It takes time. It takes decades. But it is relentless.

It will end when the Great Default stops the subsidies. It will not end until then, apart from a huge religious revival. Until there is an exodus from tax-funded schools, the trend will not change.

The easy way out is to get farther away from lower-class culture. Small cities are better for business than large cities. The lifestyle is better. A town of 30,000 is better than a small city.

When you go to, look at the crime rate. Is it below the national average? Then look at home prices. Are they rising? Then look at the racial make-up. Is it mostly white? If all these hold, this is where the future is. While no one says this publicly, most people know it.

Society cannot prosper long where families are not stable. I think there will be a reversal in the USA, but not until the government ceases to fund bad behaviour. These policies undermine communities that are most at risk. These policies accelerate the decline.

Conservatives warned of this 50 years ago. I was one of them. We were ridiculed. The defenders of welfare state policies still will not admit that their policies have caused the decline. They call for more of the same. So far, the subsidies continue. So far, there has been no reversal.

Crime may decline as communities age. Teenage boys who grew up in households without fathers are the main source of crime today. As they age, crime declines. But these men rarely become stable fathers. They rot in prison. They cost taxpayers $30,000 a year.

There is nothing that anyone can do to reverse this decline in a large city. At best, he can help a few families. The best that anyone can hope for is to leave. White flight is the way that whites have dealt with the results of the policies that white politicians have enacted. Detroit is the model.

Black flight is also popular. I got a haircut over the weekend from a black woman who left Detroit. She moved to Atlanta. When it got too expensive, she moved to a suburb. She has twin daughters who are seniors in high school. Both are planning to go to college. They will get out of the decline, but only because their mother got out of Detroit. But they will have trouble getting married to stable men. There aren’t many in the circles in which they travel.

As individuals, a few people can and do escape. But in general, most don’t. The government subsidizes bad behaviour. Result: we get more of it.