Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Survival of the African American Family: The Institutional Impact of U.S. Social Policy

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Survival of the African American Family: The Institutional Impact of U.S. Social Policy

Article excerpt

Jewell, K. Sue. SURVIVAL OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN FAMILY: THE INSTITUTIONAL IMPACT OF U.S. SOCIAL POLICY. Westport: Praeger, 2003. 303 pages.

Jewell makes an interesting effort to provide a relatively nonpartisan assessment of the effects of public policy on the African-American family. She notes early in the book that attempts to unquestionably defend the political efforts of the Democratic party cannot honestly evaluate the impact of public policy programs. I agree with her critique of social scientists afraid to challenge the supposed "progressive" efforts of the Democrats and that there needs to be more nonpartisan assessments. Her book moves from this critique to an analysis of how both Democrats and Republicans have advocated public policies that failed the African-American family.

Jewell first provides evidence that efforts to shore up majority group families may not be as effective in aiding African-American families. Beyond the higher levels of poverty that African-Americans suffer from, African-American families also utilize more informal social support systems than European-American families. For example, the Black Church has played a more vital role in the maintenance of the African-American family than majority group religious institutions have for European-American families. Given these cross-racial differences, social programs that impact religious organizations, and other informal social support systems, can have a qualitatively different effect upon African-American families than for majority group families.

The bulk of the book is a historical overview of the effects of U. S. social policy upon African-American families. Over the course of several chapters Jewell illustrates the impact of the liberal social policy of Democrats and of the social conservatism of Republicans. According to Jewell in both cases, and for different reasons, both types of social policies failed to serve African-American families. She argues that liberal policy initiatives have been, poorly conceived, ineffective and there has been little effort to evaluate whether there are any real benefits to be gained by these policies. Social conservatives generally fails to even recognize the unique problems that African-Americans face in order to advance their color-blind approach. …

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