News and Commentary

Elder: Black Fathers Matter

Radio host Larry Elder explains in Prager University’s latest video that “fathers matter,” and the lack of fathers is a serious threat to the black community.

According to Elder, out-of-wedlock births increased in the black community from 25 percent in 1965 to 73 percent in 2015, while also increasing among whites from 5 percent to 25 percent across the same time period. Overall, the percentage of American children who grew up without fathers increased from 5 percent in 1960 to 41 percent in 1995.

The reason for the increasing absence of fathers is due to the expansion of the welfare state during President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty programs in 1965.

“Our generous welfare system allows women, in effect, to marry the government,” said Elder. “And this makes it all too easy for men to abandon their traditional moral and financial responsibilities. Psychologists call such dependency ‘learned helplessness.'”

Elder cites a 1985 survey from The Los Angeles Times that asked if the poor would typically have more children as a way to receive more government subsidies. Sixty-four percent of those in poverty responded “yes” to the question.

According to the Journal of Research on Adolescence, children who grow up without a father face dramatically higher odds of going to jail than those who do grow up with a father in the home. President Barack Obama once said, “Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of school and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.”

Rapper Tupac Shakur suggested he was evidence of that trend, saying that the reason he became involved with gangs is that they provided the “structure and protection” that a father provides to his son, adding that if he grew up with a father he would have had “some discipline” and “more confidence” since “you need a man to teach you how to be a man.”

Elder talked about his “rough, tough World War II Marine staff sergeant dad”:

Born in the Jim Crow South of Athens, Ga., he was 14 at the start of the Great Depression. Growing up, I watched my father work two full-time jobs as a janitor. He also cooked for a rich family on the weekends–and somehow managed to go to night school to get his GED. When I was 10, my father opened a small restaurant that he ran until he retired in his mid-80s.

He was never angry or bitter–and insisted that today’s America was very different from the world of racial segregation and limited opportunity in which he grew up. “Hard work wins,” he told me and my brothers. “You get out of life what you put into it. You can’t control the outcome, but you are 100% in control of the effort. And before blaming other people, go to the nearest mirror and ask yourself, ‘what could I have done to change the outcome?’” This advice shaped my life.

As long as the welfare state encourages the creation of single-parent households, it will be that much harder to tackle poverty and crime in this country.