Don't Blame Mom for Crime

By Gesualdi, Louis | The Humanist, May-June 1998 | Go to article overview

Don't Blame Mom for Crime


Gesualdi, Louis, The Humanist


Some social scientists, such as Daniel P. Moynihan and James Q. Wilson, have argued that the black single-female-headed family is deficient in providing the discipline and habits necessary for personality development in African American youth. They claim that the said requirements for personality development can only be provided by the father, and they view the black single-female-headed household as a major cause of America's high crime rates. However, the data, refute this assessment.

U.S. Census data indicate that, from 1970 to 1992, the percentage of children under eighteen years old living only with their mother increased from 7.8 percent to 18 percent among whites and from 29 percent to 58 percent among blacks. Meanwhile, victimization reports from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show that, in 1973, one in three Americans reported experiencing some form of property crime or violence during the preceding six months and, by 1992, the figure had dropped to one in four. Likewise, FBI uniform crime reports show that the murder rate dropped from approximately 10 per 100,000 persons in 1973 to 8.2 per 100,000 persons in 1995. In other words, the percentage of single-female-headed households among blacks and whites has increased at the same time property and violent crime rates--including the murder rate--have decreased. Logically speaking, if the black single-female-headed household is a major cause of America's high crime rates, these rates would have increased, not decreased.

These statistics alone refute Moynihan and Wilson's assessment of what causes crime. However, there are other statistics which clear the name of black single mothers.

Whites make up 80 percent of the youth population in the United States, while blacks Make up 16 percent. Yet, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, whites make up 80 percent of all runaways and commit 81 percent of all arsons, 81 percent of vandalisms, 94 percent of DUIs, 93 percent of liquor law violations, and 88 percent of drunkenness; while blacks make up only 16 percent of all runaways and commit 17 percent of all arsons, 17 percent of vandalisms, 4 percent of DUIs, 4 percent of liquor law violations, and 10 percent of drunkenness. As you can see, the arrest rates of black youths coincide with or are lower than their proportion of the general youth population. V the black single-female-headed household plays a major role in crime, black youths should have much higher rates compared to their proportion in the general youth population--that is, much higher than 16 percent. …

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