E.W. Jackson, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, says black families have deteriorated over the last 50 years.
"In 1960, most black children were raised in two-parent, monogamous families." he said. "By now, by this time, we have only 20 percent of black children being raised in two-parent, monogamous families with a married man and woman raising those children."
We wondered whether the stark drop Jackson described during a June 20 speech in Newport News was accurate. He attributed the deterioration of black families to the expansion of welfare programs in the 1960s.
Gregory Aldridge, Jackson’s campaign manager, told us the figures came from a chart by the conservative Heritage Foundation. It shows less than 20 percent of black babies in the 1950s were born to single mothers and that rose to 72.3 percent in 2008. Heritage attributed its figures to the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control.
These figures, however, don’t quite fit Jackson’s statement. His claim focused on the percentage of black children "raised" in two-parent, married families. Some single mothers at birth might later marry and raise their children in two-parent homes.
So we turned to Gretchen Livingston, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center. She said U.S. Census data shows that in 1960 about 65 percent of black children under 18 were living in households with two married parents -- well in accord with Jackson’s claim that "most" of the children were reared in such homes.
U.S. Census Bureau tallies for 2012 show that of 11.2 million black children, 3.7 million were living with two married parents. That works out to 34 percent -- higher than the 20 percent Jackson claimed.
The reason for the drop, Jackson opined, is that welfare and food stamp expansion in the 1960s "began to tell women you don’t need a man in the home, the government will take care of you. That began to tell men you don’t need to be in the home, the government will take of this woman and take care of these children."
Jackson’s opinion is not universally shared. A lot of research has been done on welfare’s effect on the black family and the conclusions are mixed, according to Gregory Acs, director of the nonpartisan Urban Institute’s Income and Benefits Policy Center. Acs doesn’t think welfare is completely unrelated to the drop in the percentage of children living with two parents, but he said a lot of other issues are at play.
For example, Acs said economic opportunities for women have risen over the decades and fallen for men. That has contributed to a drop in marriage rates that also explains why more children -- black and white -- are being raised by one-parent families.
In 1960, 91 percent of white children of under 18 were living in two married parents in the household, according to a 2010 report by the Pew Research Center. By 2012 that had dropped to 70 percent of white children living with two married parents, according to U.S. Census figures.
Jackson said in 1960 most black children were raised in two-parent, married households and now only 20 percent of them live in two-parent households.
In 1960, about two-thirds of black children were living with two parents so that part of Jackson’s statement is correct. The most recent figures show that 34 percent are living with two married parents.
So Jackson’s latest figure is off, but that doesn’t harm his gist that there’s been a significant decline in traditional black families.
We rate his statement Mostly True.