"Second, I see your graphs (on your blog) confirm, or don’t contradict, the claim that rates of African American ‘out of wedlock’ births were pretty constant between 1920 and 1990. So I take it you accept that point?"I have scanned what Murray actually wrote about illegimate births in Losing Ground. He didn't dispute it either.
You say (or cite someone else saying) black, employed and married women decreased the number of children they were having so the illegitimate percentage rose. But surely the problem is that the illegitimate babies were the ones being raised on welfare, being poor and being disadvantaged and their numbers, in absolute terms, were growing. (By the way, Charles Murray's latest idea about solving poverty and welfare reliance is a basic minimum income from the state for every adult individual. Something like Gareth Morgan's proposition.)
"Since 1990, the graphs you posted indicate significant reductions in that rate, especially amongst African Americans but also, to a much smaller degree in other groups. You think – or at least I assume you do – that that decline is associated with ‘welfare reforms’ initiated prior to and during that period? These ‘reforms’ being removal of access to cash benefits, etc. I’m interested in why you are interested in that particular possibility rather than others such as (a) the economic up-turn in the 1990s (If I recall from the link in my last response, that was the explanation for the increase in the proportion of African American ‘out of wedlock’ births prior to 1990 – more employment and therefore fewer births overall, therefore unmarried births formed a greater proportion of the birth rate) and (b) the increased funding for Medicaid and related contraception and abortion services (here and here), especially for low income groups. I’m particularly interested in the latter as I also take it that you support the current proposal to provide free, long-acting contraception to young women beneficiaries (suggesting that you think it will be an effective measure)? Given that African Americans are disproportionately represented amongst the low income groups, the effect would be particularly significant for that group."What I said was, "In which case you would have to conclude that reforms have nothing to do with the tumbling rates after 1990. I don't accept that. Neither do I rule out other factors at play." If it were the economy alone a turn-around would have occurred during the later 2000s. It hasn't. I'd guess that the extra contraception funding was effective as part of the reforms because the abortion rate also decreased. So unless sexual behaviour has changed, falling birthrate and falling abortion rate equals more prevention.
Do I think offering free long-acting contraception to women beneficiaries will help? To a degree. When female beneficiaries know that they will be work-tested when any additional child is one year-old they will be more motivated to avoid that outcome. But young women who want babies - for whatever reason - or who are disinclined to use contraception for other reasons - eg weight gain - aren't going to be persuaded.
"There’s a third possible cause for this decline in rates of unmarried births – marriage may have become popular again, especially for young teenagers (I seem to recall something about the ‘resurgence’ of marriage?). There’s also the artefactual effect stated in the footnote to the table underpinning the graphs (in the original source): “Trends in non-marital births may be affected by changes in the reporting of marital status on birth certificates and in procedures for inferring non-marital births when marital status is not reported.” (Interestingly, the rates of unmarried births reduced far less significantly for African Americans aged 18 and 19 years (about 15% between 1995-2002) than it did for 16-17 year olds (33%) – why would that be the case given that, presumably, any ‘welfare reforms’ would have affected those groups equally?)"I wouldn't assume they were affected equally by the welfare reforms. Part of the reform process was focussed on keeping younger girls in school and living with a 'responsible adult' as a prerequisite for receiving cash assistance. Similar to what National is going to attempt. Marriage resurgence? In general marriage rates across races are down. That doesn't mean a sub-group (by age) wouldn't be following a different trend but I can't find any evidence of it among African American teenagers. Increasing co-habitation is another muddying factor but co-habitations tend to be far less stable than marriages. In fact their brevity often leads to reliance on welfare assistance with a young child.
"Given these other possible explanations why focus on an explanation that, if incorrect, could result in significant further hardship (i.e., no effect on birth rates but more instability of income for the mother)? Isn’t that quite a risk to take?"Can I take a broad approach now because arguing individual points is interesting but very time-consuming.
Here's my position (and it encompasses your further remarks about time spent on welfare not being a problem.) In all of your discussion you haven't mentioned fathers and the role they used to play in 'poor' families. I think fathers are very important. I think men's evolved role - in western societies - has been significantly damaged by welfare in as much as low-income earners were made redundant as bread-winners. The curtailment of welfare - or at least the restoration of welfare as a genuine last resort - carries with it risks. But the greater risk in my mind is to continue to allow or encourage the demise of the two-parent family (see, I am also old-fashioned:-))
Your viewpoint appears to accept the high level of single parents and works on how best the state should ensure their children, who are disproportionately reliant on welfare, do well. Hence the DPB isn't a problem to you.
Whereas I believe the strongest society is built on enduring, mutually supporting, voluntarily co-dependent relationships between individuals. There will always be relative poverty but strong families compensate for this (in NZ this is illustrated by Pacific and Asian families.) I have no doubt that we both want the same end but we are going to disagree on means.
I reflect momentarily, wouldn't it be great to see the US downward trends in teenage birth and abortion happening here.
There is some very recent improvement but there isn't a long-term established trend.
By the way I found a more recent table (2010) for the US: