So there is income inequality between genders, ethnic groups, and so on. In fact, many believe this is de facto evidence of lingering racism (and sexism). While income and wealth disparities rightfully cause discomfort to our moral sensibilities, and while we do not necessarily accept it, the fact is that history is ripe with disparities. Put another way, disparities are normal, and natural, and they are so for many reasons.
Certainly there are racists (those who believe their race is inherently superior and others inherently inferior) and bigots (those intolerant of others not like them, either without or without assumptions about inherent superiority or inferiority), but neither is necessary for disparities to exist. And neither is a silver bullet explanation of ethnic income inequality.
A brief digression: Here, one finds a statistical fallacy. Inequality between groups is not the same as inequality between each and every person. These statistics involve averages, which means there are people above the average and below the average. One group could have people at the top so far above the pack that it makes the average look a bit higher. Conversely, a group could have a large number of people at the bottom who are well below the pack, thereby making the average look a bit lower. That is, averages are not particulars. Generalities allow for exceptions, and so do statistics. Now, back to the subject at hand:
The painful truth is that the best way to achieve relative economic security and independence in this country is to follow a set of rules. First, complete high school, at least. Second, get and maintain full-time employment. Third, stay out of trouble with drugs, alcohol, and the law. Fourth, make sure you are married before bearing children. Sure, there are exceptions, but exceptions are exceptional and do not alter the general truth (see the above digression).
When one finds undesirable financial conditions, there is a very high probability that one or more of these rules has been violated. Quite possibly the most important is the parenthood rule. Where there is a child living in poverty, or a child underachieving in school or getting into trouble, there is a good chance there is a single parent.
This is not to say that it is the parent’s fault, per se: many single parents go to heroic lengths to give their children the best they can, and they are wonderful parents—it’s just that parenting is naturally a two-person job. It’s simply a statistical and sociological fact that children tend to do better in life when they come from intact, mom-and-dad families. There is something about the natural ways of a mother and the natural ways of a father. And there is also something about the economic security of a two-parent household, whether one or both parents work. All of this is more difficult when there is only one parent.
At present, the United States has a growing crisis with out-of-wedlock births. Unfortunately, there is a much greater prevalence of these births among black Americans, although white and Hispanic Americans are also experiencing rapidly (and alarmingly) growing rates. Statistically, it follows that black America will have a higher occurrence of the related financial hardships; and this is the reality.
No racist bigot can make young Americans have children out-of-wedlock. Put another way, no racist bigot can make two single people engage in sexual activity. Put yet another way, the individuals engaging in the activity consciously make the decision to do so.
Worse, they are encouraged to do so by their environment. A well-intentioned public safety net eases the pain by providing just enough help for single parents (of all ethnicities) and their children to get by, making it just comfortable enough not to be a disincentive for the behavior leading to single parenthood.
Next, public schools, through sex education, while perhaps teaching children some responsible sexual behavior, inadvertently (or maybe even intentionally in some cases) encourage students to engage in sexual activity well before they are of the financial or psychological state to deal with the possible consequences. Third, pop culture glamorizes and further encourages the activity.
The increasing prevalence of single parenthood depresses the financial condition of these families. After all, there is only one income (if that) and no second person to perform tasks that the parent must now pay for (like day care). Children are more likely to live in poverty and tend not to have the second parent as a second role model. Later in life, they are less likely to graduate from high school or college and their probable earning power is reduced. As for the single parents, (usually the mothers) they are less able and likely, due to financial and time constraints, to graduate from college, thereby depressing their earning power, as well.
Meanwhile, middle-, upper-middle-, and upper-class Americans continue to grow, and they do so because they finished school, hold full-time (and overtime) employment, stay out of trouble, and got married before having children. Generally-speaking, of course—one wouldn’t want to recognize the exceptions, but again, they are exceptional.
Ironically, it’s the upper-middle- and upper-classes who reign over the schools, the state, and the pop culture. Whether intentional or not, they are the very purveyors of the inputs heretofore described that have led to these disparities. At the same time, they follow the rules—the time-tested, proven practices—that led to their economic well-being.
Perhaps there is some tie to the racist, Jim Crow past in all of this. Perhaps with the advent of the Civil Rights movement and the War on Poverty, a greater proportion of black Americans were subject the safety net and the other inputs, and 50 years later, that’s why their proportionality remains higher. All the same, the parents (again, of all ethnic groups where this occurring) are still engaging the in the behavior. They are not getting married and dad is leaving the picture. This is not the inevitable result of racism—this is an evolving culture. These are individuals making choices.
In our compassion, our society is unlikely to ever roll back the safety net and sex education starts earlier and earlier and, in places, gets raunchier and raunchier. In defense of free expression and art, Hollywood is not likely to stop producing graphic and glamorous sex scenes. Thus, in order to stem the tide, it will be up to individuals to refrain, to have some self-control. As Charles Murray would put it, the young will need to emulate the upper classes, and it would help if the upper classes would “preach what they practice,” regardless of how “uncool” it might be.
The best way for the black community to decrease income inequality is to reduce the prevalence of out-of-wedlock births. (This also holds true for whites, Hispanics, and any other group of people with which one might be inclined to compare.) Leaders must preach this, because no policy can change this condition, unless it’s unacceptably Draconian and invasive. Behavior must change. And while reducing racism and bigotry is most definitely a good thing, squelching it is not an all-encompassing solution to the problem of inequality.