One reason urban murder & drug rates stay high

Nary a day goes by on which stories of high homicide and drug addiction rates in Chicago and Baltimore aren’t prominently featured in headlines. One of the reasons these societal ills are the insoluble pills that degrade the quality of life for us all is that people—politicians, families, schools, educators, and kids—have no interest in addressing one root cause of the problem: kids being raised without fathers, opine Tyrone Keys and Richard E Vatz in Maryland

The horrors of murder and other violence and misery get discussed incessantly everywhere: on media, in general conversation, in political campaigns. So why is fatherlessness barely even broached in the public sphere? …

Part of the reason is that changing the nature of the population can be done neither overnight nor in 4-8 years, the limit many politicians will serve. Conservative commentator Tucker Carlson claims that politicians don’t care about solving problems; they only care about their political careers …

Depending on the survey, the number of children in the US who are being raised in single-parent households—most commonly by a single mother—varies a bit. Mr Keys and Mr Vatz say, “During the 1960-2016 period, the percentage of children living with only their mother nearly tripled from 8 to 23 percent.” The numbers are accurate, as far as they go, but they don’t go far enough, in my opinion. I see fatherlessness as an “effect” of some other root “cause,” possibly related to poverty. Fatherlessness may compound other problems, and that makes the whole thing look like a vicious cycle that easily confounds any attempt at analysis or understanding.

The US Census Bureau last year released its annual update to the America’s Family and Living Arrangements table package, which said:

Between 1960 and 2016, the percentage of children living in families with two parents decreased from 88 to 69. Of those 50.7 million children living in families with two parents, 47.7 million live with two married parents and 3.0 million live with two unmarried parents.

So even though the majority of American children under 18 are still living in two-parent households, the percentage has decreased significantly in the last 58 years.

(We can observe that the trend has been mostly flat since 1990 but did not recover from a big increase in the 1970s and 1980s, decades after the Vietnam War. This slight clarification to Mr Keys’s and Mr Vatz’s analysis suggests the surgical strikes ordered by President George HW Bush were not concurrent with the same kind of increase in fatherlessness as the Vietnam War was. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have been likened to the Vietnam War by some activists, have failed to push the rates any higher than they are.)

And the authors argue that nobody is able to do anything about the problem, primarily because nobody is willing to talk about it openly and honestly.

The problem, they point out, is that politicians typically concern themselves with issues that might be addressed within four to eight years, the terms most of them serve in office. Those concerned with only their political careers, as at least one conservative commentator has argued, won’t be able to reverse the trend by the time they come up for re-election. Changing the pattern of kids being raised without fathers will take decades.

Yet many problems in urban areas stem from parents who do not take an active role in their sons’ and daughters’ life at school. I see this all the time: When I attend band concerts or football games in suburban schools, I see lots of parents in the audience or crowd; at performances or games in the cities of Baltimore or Chicago, I typically see a much lower number of parents, despite a roughly equivalent number of student participants in the activity.

(I can’t deny that parents in urban areas may be more restricted by their jobs when it comes to supporting weekend or night-time activities at their children’s school, but that excuse doesn’t nullify the reduced parental support they provide. It’s evident but not discussed, and again, a two-parent household would on more occasions allow for the presence of at least one parent at each of these events, assuming work schedules could be coordinated.)

I have to believe parents’ involvement with homework and other, more academic components of students’ education would show similar differences between one- and two-parent households, though research on this subject is sorely lacking.

That is exactly the kind of thing Mr Keys and Mr Vatz are talking about: nobody is willing to take a serious look at the root cause here, probably because doing so would draw fire from all kinds of groups who would make the false claim that even researching the problem is a form of discrimination. Those criticisms could kill a political run, so lawmakers who might actually make a difference give up too quickly.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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