2006 March 23 Thursday
Plight Of Black Men Worsens

This costs us all.

The share of young black men without jobs has climbed relentlessly, with only a slight pause during the economic peak of the late 1990's. In 2000, 65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless - that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts. Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20's were jobless in 2004, up from 46 percent in 2000.

Incarceration rates climbed in the 1990's and reached historic highs in the past few years. In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20's who did not attend college were in jail or prison; by 2004, 21 percent were incarcerated. By their mid-30's, 6 in 10 black men who had dropped out of school had spent time in prison.

In the inner cities, more than half of all black men do not finish high school.

Parenthetically, half of all Hispanics drop out of high school in America. Imagine the last 30 years of the Hispanic immigration deluge hadn't happened. The pay for lower skilled jobs would be higher and more black high school drop-outs would be employed. The automation of manual labor jobs and the export of jobs to lower wage countries still would have caused a decline in the fortunes of black males. But the decline would not have been as great.

I am amazed at the rationalizing abilities of liberals who support weak immigration restrictions who also bemoan the plight of blacks. They support policies that screw over the least skilled people in our society. Then they move to white flight suburbs while condescendly claiming that white conservative racists are to blame for the social problems of blacks and Hispanics.

Incarceration and child support have contributed to the high black male unemployment rate.

Mr. Holzer of Georgetown and his co-authors cite two factors that have curbed black employment in particular.

First, the high rate of incarceration and attendant flood of former offenders into neighborhoods have become major impediments. Men with criminal records tend to be shunned by employers, and young blacks with clean records suffer by association, studies have found.


By their mid-30's, 30 percent of black men with no more than a high school education have served time in prison, and 60 percent of dropouts have, Mr. Western said.

Among black dropouts in their late 20's, more are in prison on a given day - 34 percent - than are working - 30 percent - according to an analysis of 2000 census data by Steven Raphael of the University of California, Berkeley.

Social policies always have unintended and harmful consequences. Stricter child support enforcement is no exception. The enforcement discourages black men with child support orders from working in legal jobs.

About half of all black men in their late 20's and early 30's who did not go to college are noncustodial fathers, according to Mr. Holzer. From the fathers' viewpoint, support obligations "amount to a tax on earnings," he said.

I'd like to know whether black high school drop-outs have more kids than black high school graduates. My guess is the answer is Yes. If so then yet lower IQ levels are being selected for. But maybe successful black males have so many mating opportunities that they are reproducing at a faster rate. Also, with so many black male high school drop-outs in jail that has to reduce their ability to reproduce. So maybe the high black incarceration rate is selecting for genes for higher intelligence and lower criminality.

Draconian child support policies drive some men to take on false identities or leave the country. An engineer of my acquaintance was forced to live in his car due to a divorce settlement. He didn't have enough money to pay rent after paying for support. Worse, he had the blood types of his 3 kids tested and found that they had 3 different blood types. So at least one of his kids wasn't his. Given that his marriage ended when he came home early and found his wife in bed with someone else that wasn't too surprising. He eventually quit his job and disappeared from town.

For poor men with little earning potential and child support court orders legal jobs have little to offer. With the unemployed blacks I wonder what portion of them do illegal work like drug dealing and what percent have under-the-table jobs. Also, what portion of their support comes from living with girlfriends? Just how do they get by?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 March 23 08:14 AM  Civilizations Decay

Ivan Kirigin said at March 23, 2006 11:43 AM:

There has been some recent talk of male abortion rights -- i.e. the right to not pay child support and not have custody. This will probably become more common. This article was passed around today:

Considering the ease of finding a job, even if low paying, I think talk of immigration here is sort of ridiculous. Millions of immigrants, many illegal, prove that the current economy allows for people to be sustained at the very least in low paying but regular jobs. They don't need educations. They don't need skills. They just need to work.

My point is that even if the immigration situation were to change (and I think we'd both agree that this isn't likely), the situation you describe here wouldn't change much as a result. In fact, if your reasoning is correct, it would probably hurt. Briefly:
You have a mass of low skilled people. A certain group is more likely to have a criminal record. That makes it less likely to be employed. With increased cost of employing low skilled labor, those discriminative factors could exaggerate the divide.

I'm not sure how long the situation is sustainable -- in the sense that there will likely be some reformation within the African American community. You're seeing bits of it with Bill Cosby's honest talk. Maybe I'm too optimistic, and the situation can get arbitrarily worse.

Randall Parker said at March 23, 2006 12:25 PM:


"even if low paying".

Er, that's the point, isn't it? Productivity has soared as living standards have declined at the bottom.

It would take more than $9 in 2006 to match the federal minimum wage peak reached in 1968, adjusting for inflation. At today's $5.15 an hour, it takes nearly two minimum wage workers to earn what one made 38 years ago.

The minimum wage sets the wage floor. When the minimum wage is stuck in quicksand, it drags down wages for workers up the pay scale as well. Hourly wages for average workers are 11 percent lower than they were in 1973, despite rising worker productivity.

It wasn't always like this. Between 1947 and 1973, worker productivity rose 104 percent while the minimum wage rose 101 percent, adjusting for inflation.

As a child I used to believe that everyone's living standards rose every year due to advancing technology. But productivity has gone one way while living standards at the bottom have gone a very different way.

Libertarians defend free market capitalism because it brings home the bacon. What's your argument for why the poor folks should support open borders and free trade? They do not derive a benefit. They are very obviously hurt by both open borders and free trade.

Bob Badour said at March 23, 2006 3:07 PM:
Considering the ease of finding a job, even if low paying, I think talk of immigration here is sort of ridiculous.

I find your reasoning fatuous. If one is willing to work for free or at a financial loss, tons of jobs will open up, but I don't think that really helps the working poor. Massive unskilled immigration drives down the price of unskilled labor and that has consequences for working poor Americans of all races.

scottynx said at March 23, 2006 5:00 PM:

Ivan writes:
[Millions of immigrants, many illegal, prove that the current economy allows for people to be sustained at the very least in low paying but regular jobs. They don't need educations. They don't need skills. They just need to work.]

We shouldn't have people living 10 or 20 to a house. How could children do thier homework in such environments? I know this isn't what you meant, but it's pretty much what $5.75 an hour means.

Ivan writes:
[In fact, if your reasoning is correct, it would probably hurt. Briefly:
You have a mass of low skilled people. A certain group is more likely to have a criminal record. That makes it less likely to be employed. With increased cost of employing low skilled labor, those discriminative factors could exaggerate the divide.]

There are a sizable (30-50 percent? Just a guess) percentage of hispanics who are just as umemployable on average (and probably have the same average IQ) as the average black. Most of them seem to get jobs. But they can blend in with the large hispanic "better behaved" and more intelligent group, and blacks as a can't. But why would stopping immigration makes this worse? Are you talking about economy of scale for poor people?

If there ever was some kind of "economy of scale" for poor people, causing thier wages or living standards to rise, I'd bet we long ago passed the point into "diseconomy of scale". For example: Maybe more massive "mega-poor" complexes can be built with more poor people, lowering thier housing costs, but what happens as land on the immigrant heavy coasts fills up more and more? Higher housing costs for poor people could result. Or how about this: who had the best education? The first hispanics to come to Los Angeles after the 1965 immigration act, and made up only 10 percent of the cities schools, or the hispanics today? Don't you think a lot of blacks could go to better schools too, if hispanics didn't take up ever increasing spots in schools good and bad? More hispanics= poorer services for the poor, ie diseconomy of scale.

Also, as long as minimum wage laws aren't raised too much, there should always be prices at which blacks are employable. If we tightened immigration and let supply and demand take it's course, blacks would find labor more rewarding vis a vis crime and government assistance.

Also, since unskilled immigrants mooch of off the majority, and blacks do too, less immigrants equals more money for black social programs.

And anyway, occam's razor says that the simple law of supply and demand is most relavent to the situation. The most likely outcome of cutting back on massive poor immigration would be higher wages for blacks.

D Flinchum said at March 24, 2006 5:47 AM:

We have to remember affirmative action as well. Hispanics are a protected minority the same as blacks are. An illegal male immigrant from Mexico who arrived in the US last week counts as much toward a diversity goal as a black male whose ancestors were brought to America 300 years ago. If the former will work for less and under worse conditions, he'll get hired. This phenomenon means that the group of people most "needing" affirmative action (poor workers at the bottom of the wage scale) constantly gets replenished from abroad.

Over the last 50 years many black Americans moved out of poverty into the blue-collar working class, from which their children moved into white-collar middle class or above, just as many rural white Americans did. With affirmative action tied to diversity and the vast majority of immigrants (legal and illegal) qualifying under this rule, it shifts from being a program to help a well-defined and relatively small group (the descendants of slaves) to a program that favors foreigners over US citizens, black and white.

Rick Darby said at March 24, 2006 8:56 AM:

Interesting, isn't it, how leftists follow changing fashion in their choice of victim group du jour? Forty years ago, they supported -- not without reason -- civil rights and economic progress for American blacks. Since then, they've welcomed into the big tent of the oppressed, each with a new burst of enthusiasm, women, gays, the handicapped, and a new "race" they've invented: "Hispanics."

Even though it should be obvious that the huge wave of Latin American immgration, both legal and illegal, is hurting African Americans the most, that doesn't dampen the Liberal Establishment's pro-immigration cheerleading. After all, blacks are so, you know, 1967, while Mexicans are the future, baby!

After all, the important thing is to have as many people in the country who'll vote Democrat/leftist and support a new generation of government social engineers. Blacks are a fairly stable percentage of the population. But Mexicans, man, there's a whole country full of them we can import, and once they're here, we can count on them breeding like minks! Clearly they're a better bet for expanding the customer base of a centralized, bureaucratic welfare state.

Robert Speirs said at March 24, 2006 10:50 AM:

What you subsidize, you get more of. Subsidize minority unemployment, you get more unemployed minorities. Subsidize bad health, you get an ever expanding definition of ill health and more "disabled" people. Prisons can even be looked at as a subsidy for low intelligence. Pretty soon, everything will be subsidized and everybody will be sick, in prison or unemployed. I'd better start packing.

Gary Glaucon said at March 25, 2006 2:19 PM:

Rick and Robert are right about their issues, but these are simple laws of economics that socialists want to ignore in order to propogate their fantasy viewpoint. Life isn't easy, but some immutable natural laws exist. The question is do you want a bunch of thugs in government telling you what to do or would you like to take personal responsibility? The poor will most likely defer responsibility and the intellegent will be split between realists and those who suffer from mental illness.

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