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It is assumed you have seen these charts before reading this.
Culture and Welfare
[Objection] 2. The great migration of African Americans to the cities around this time period accounted for the problems you are describing in the African American community and family structure. Can't this just be explained by cultural differences? Aren't out-of-wedlock births accidental? I don't see how can teenage girls be cognoscente enough to weigh these options.
I'm not sure what your getting at. Millions of people moved to the cities during the industrial revolution with no overtly ill effect. Millions of Italians, Irish, Brits, Scots, Eastern Europeans and Asians resided in cities when they first arrived in the United States. They were poor, but kept their family structure intact and through hard work, brought about by the necessity for hard work, moved out of poverty. If a few million impoverished, say.. Italians, had arrived in the mid to late 60s - early 70s and had access to welfare and other social spending benefits, I would predict the same fate would befall them.
No, I don't believe the single motherhood rates are caused by 'accidents'. Individual accidental pregnancies occur all time, but I don't believe a jump from 7.5% to 25% in African American teenage pregnancies is random luck. People may not set out to have children, but because there are no consequences, or the consequences are beneficial (in the short term), they might not take the precautions that they otherwise would. If there was a 10% chance of getting cancer a month after starting to smoke do you think kids would smoke? How about if the rise in cancer rates among 20-30 year smokers was seen after only 10 years? Would that have an effect on the teenage smoking rate?
As far as teenagers being cognoscente, I am sure teenagers never sat down with a calculator and added up all the money they were going to make. I recently read an article on the remarkable business savvy of street children in Rio de Janeiro. It described how the children, who often make their living peddling goods, understood economies of scale, bartering, and complex business logic, despite the fact they had no math skills and were illiterate! The point is that people are good at seeing the 'big picture' and although they might not consciously analyze things, they are able to pick up clues from their environment and adjust their behavior accordingly.
I also don't believe the disproportionate out-of-wedlock and single motherhood births fall on poorer folk and/or African Americans for cultural reasons. To me this view is condescending and borders on racism. This reminds me of a view I addressed in my review of Fahrenheit 9/11, the liberal view that democracy should not be imposed on Iraq because we must respect Arab cultural differences. Of course, this view echoes what was said about Japan, Germany, and South Korea and incorrectly places, what is thought to be culture, on a higher pedestal then the natural human yearnings and desires for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which exist regardless of religion, sex, race, or culture. As we will see, the rise out-of-wedlock births is no laughing matter either, and certainly nothing to be appreciated as a 'cultural' phenomena. Later on we will visit other populations where the same thing is occurring.
It has been said that the whole era of the 60s was a 'sexual revolution' and a time when cultural mores were shattered. Divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing were previously frowned upon. This may be so, but what came first, the chicken or the egg? Perhaps, through the incentives/disincentives put in place by the Federal government, a critical mass of persons entered into this 'taboo' population that resulted in the shifting of these stigmas and acceptance of behaviors. It might well be the case that this broad shifting cultural trend did have some independent influence on birthrates and out-of-wedlock birth, but I don't see how it can account for a majority of the effects we are seeing here. It is also notable that abortions were becoming wildly available and that the number of these performed increased greatly during the 70s almost 7 fold (234). One might think this and access to other birth control methods would improve teenage pregnancy rates...
In a similar sense, it seems a stretch to blame the Hip-Hop / rap / gangster rap / inner city culture for the rising incarceration rates and out-of-wedlock pregnancies of African Americans. Kool Herc, father of Hip-Hop, debuted in 1973 and, although he was influenced by earlier figures (244), this time frame was after the familial changes had commenced. This music may have originated from the changing culture, or developed independently. Most likely, this style emerged as a combination of culture and natural musical progression. It is hard to believe 'gangster rap' could have evolved without gangsters, or songs about 'the projects', guns and drugs become so popular if they weren't based in reality. For example, Biggie Smalls's lyric, "I see some ladies tonight that should be having my baby, baby", might not have been composed if out-of-wedlock births weren't rampant in the inner city public housing units. If the rise in crime rates and other social changes were triggered, directly or indirectly, by these means-tested anti-poverty programs (see objection 9 for more detail), then we can assume any arising cultural changes played, at most, a secondary or amplifying role. After Welfare Reform we see progress in many areas (crime, out-of-wedlock births, poverty) without the demise of music or culture. In fact, this music and culture must have some universal aesthetic qualities because nowadays the largest fan base is found outside of the inner cities, in suburbia (I'll admit I'm an 'old school' rap fan :) ). Some of the other populations we will examine, (Appalachia, Indian reservations etc..) are smaller, more isolated, and are in different settings (rural vs. urban). These factors may have made the development of cultural changes large enough to effect mainstream society more difficult.
See, 'French Riots' for another comparison.
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