Moynihan argued that growing up in homes without a male breadwinner reduced black children’s chances of climbing out of poverty, and that the spread of such families would make it hard for blacks to take advantage of the legal and institutional changes flowing from the civil rights revolution.
Moynihan’s claim that growing up in a fatherless family reduced a child’s chances of educational and economic success was furiously denounced when the report appeared in 1965, with many critics calling Moynihan a racist. For the next two decades few scholars chose to investigate the effects of father absence, lest they too be demonized if their findings supported Moynihan’s argument.Judged by reading the thousands of words of McLanahan and Jencks that followed, we'd guess there's still some discomfort. Some of those words;
Moynihan was clearly prescient in thinking that America’s black families were changing in fundamental ways. In 1965, when Moynihan’s report was released, roughly 25 percent of black children and 5 percent of white children lived in families headed by an unmarried mother. These percentages rose rapidly over the next two decades, reaching about 50 percent among blacks and 15 percent among whites by the early 1980s.
In 1960, only 5 percent of all births were to unmarried mothers. By 2010, the number was nearly 41 percent.And their point?
Was Moynihan right in suggesting that children whose parents divorce or never marry have more than their share of problems? This question has been hotly debated ever since the publication of Moynihan’s report. On the one hand, growing up without both biological parents is clearly associated with worse average outcomes for children than growing up with them. Specifically, children growing up with a single mother are exposed to more family instability and complexity, they have more behavior problems, and they are less likely to finish high school or attend college than children raised by both of their parents.Not that there's anything wrong with that?
On the other hand, these differences in children’s behavior and success might well be traceable to differences that would exist even if the biological father were present.But they really don't believe that. They just had to cover themselves.
... a father’s absence increases antisocial behavior, such as aggression, rule breaking, delinquency, and illegal drug use. These antisocial behaviors affect high school completion independent of a child’s verbal and math scores. Thus it appears that a father’s absence lowers children’s educational attainment not by altering their scores on cognitive tests but by disrupting their social and emotional adjustment and reducing their ability or willingness to exercise self-control. The effects of growing up without both parents on aggression, rule breaking, and delinquency are also larger for boys than for girls. Since these traits predict both college attendance and graduation, the spread of single-parent families over the past few decades may have contributed to the growing gender gap in college attendance and graduation. The gender gap in college completion is much more pronounced among children raised by single mothers than among children raised in two-parent families.[Bold in all of the above by HSIB]
Say, does all this have any relevance to the hot controversies of the day, such as increasing inequality or the problems in Ferguson, MO?
Doesn't seem to have occurred to the two scholars that it might.