Solve Welfare Problem and Crime Problem Will Also Ease

By Mona Charen Copyright Creators Syndicate Inc. | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), March 20, 1995 | Go to article overview

Solve Welfare Problem and Crime Problem Will Also Ease


Mona Charen Copyright Creators Syndicate Inc., St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


The new Republican majority is making its share of mistakes - for example, failing to anticipate the public relations debacle on the subject of the school lunch program. And Republican armor will no doubt be tarnished when a term-limits bill fails to pass. But on welfare reform, the Republicans are making excellent progress in exploding the myths that have sustained American social policy for 20 years.

The average American fears crime and sees a connection between welfare, the breakdown of families and criminal behavior. For years, however, that was not how the ruling party in Washington saw things.

To the average liberal Democrat, crime is a problem of poverty. That was the view enshrined in the crime bill of 1994. Millions were to be spent on so-called "prevention" programs, most of which were guided by the belief that would-be criminals will go straight provided we give them, in the words of Sen. Joseph Biden, "something to say `yes' to."

But as Heritage Foundation scholar Patrick Fagan demonstrates in a new review of the social science literature on violence and delinquency, poverty has almost nothing to do with crime. Family structure and dynamics hold the key.

If the poverty-causes-crime theory were correct, one would expect to see crime rates fall as incomes rise and vice versa. But a quick review of history shows that crime in America rose gradually from 1905 to 1933, a period of economic growth and rising personal incomes. When the Great Depression hit, the crime rate fell.

On the other hand, data from all 50 states show a direct correlation between the rise of single-parent families and the increase in juvenile crime. According to Fagan, a 10 percent increase in the percentage of children living in single-parent homes accompanies a 17 percent increase in juvenile crime,

Liberal politicians seek the root causes of crime in economic conditions - a fruitless search. Bad mothers and fathers (often absent fathers) are what turn kids into criminals. According to Fagan, even in high-crime, inner-city neighborhoods, well more than 90 percent of children from intact, stable families never commit crimes. …

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