Moynihan Report Revisited – Poverty and Families

Julian Omidi looks at the Urban Institute’s reevaluation of the Moynihan Report from 1965 that outlined the correlation between families and poverty.

In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan – sociologist, Assistant Secretary of Labor, and later a United States Senator – published a report that focused on the effect that the dissolution of the nuclear family was having on poverty rates, specifically in the African-American community. The Urban Institute recently went back to the report to find out if these trends were continuing today and what they found was that the circumstances were more dire in some areas, while good news exists in other areas.

One of the biggest questions that revolves around poverty is whether the higher rates of poverty among single-mother families are a cause or effect. In 2010, statistics showed that roughly 40% of single-mother families lived in poverty, while only 9% of married-couple families were below the poverty line in the United States.

The revisited report finds that though the percentages of single-mother families has increased over the years, it may not necessarily be tied to increased rates of poverty in the African-American community as Moynihan believed.

From 1974 to 2011 child poverty rates for both white and black children followed the same patterns, although African-American children experienced significantly higher rates of poverty overall. These trends saw a precipitous drop in poverty during the 1990s, specifically among black children, while in the mid-2000s these rates increased. Many believe that these findings point to the affect of the economy playing a much larger part than the nuclear family and there is certainly evidence to justify this conclusion.

The review of the study indicated that making sure that the fathers in these families are able to receive adequate employment, that children are able to attend better schools, and that neighborhoods become better integrated are methods by which these trends can be affected positively.

By Julian Omidi

Childhood Poverty Rates 1975-2011

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