With the riots in Baltimore one of the issues being discussed is the breakdown of the Black family. Phillip Bump at the Washington Post tackles this very question in Rand Paul cites a ‘lack of fathers’ in Baltimore. Here’s what the data actually show.
In 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services released a study of father-child interactions between 2006 and 2010. It looked at how often black, white and Hispanic fathers lived with and interacted with their children.
The stats he presents are a bit of a let down, and at times don’t make sense. More striking however is how the Health and Human Services report he is getting his data from defines a father. Who’s your daddy? Why any man who is living in the same house while banging your mom!
Not all men are biological fathers and not all fathers have biological children. In addition to fathering a child, men may become fathers through adoption—which confers the same legal status, protections, and responsibilities to the man and the child as fathering a biological child. Men also may become de facto fathers when they marry or cohabit with women who have children from previous relationships, that is, they are raising stepchildren or their cohabiting partner’s children. In this report, men were defined as fathers if they had biological or adopted children or if step- or partner’s children were living in the household.
I understand that the lines can become blurred here with stepfathers, but not only does this government report not distinguish between legal fathers and stepfathers, it expands the definition of stepfather to mean any man currently shacked up with mom.
HHS is not the only US government agency to do this though. As I’ve shared previously, the US Census uses a very similar definition of father:
Children are defined in this report as all individuals under 18 years old. The survey asks respondents to identify the child’s mother and/or father if they are present in the household. A separate question asks respondents to identify the type of relationship between each child and parent, whether biological, step, or adoptive. All living arrangements are as of the time of the interview.
Stepchildren are identified by the survey respondent, and their stepparent may not be currently married to the child’s other coresidential parent.
While HHS says any man currently shacking up with mom counts as the father, the Census says any man currently shacking up with mom counts as the father so long as mom says so. Either way, fathers clearly can’t matter that much to the US government if distinguishing between the actual father and the man currently banging mom isn’t important.
There are other ways we can tell that fathers don’t matter (and therefore Black fathers don’t matter). Under our current family system fathers are a sort of deputy parent. Just like a sheriff’s deputy serves at the pleasure of the sheriff, a father in an intact family serves at the pleasure of the mother. Our entire family court structure is designed to facilitate the removal of the father should the mother decide she no longer wants him to be part of the family unit. How important can fathers really be, when we have a massive and brutal bureaucracy devoted to helping mothers kick them out of the house?
Lastly, a comment on What Do the Ten Most Dangerous Cities in America Have in Common? that I’ve shared previously is highly relevant:
On a side note, this post catalogs the effects of marriage; but not just any kind of marriage. It documents the need for the kind of marriage where parents, especially men, exert a substantial moral influence, and doing so in neighborhoods which maintain that moral influence. It’s not only that we have parents, but that those parents have a job to do, and society depends on them doing it effectively.
As Cane Caldo astutely notes, the Baltimore single mother of 6 being feted by the media as mother of the year for severely disciplining her riotous son would have been seen very differently if she were a father:
…The media and civil authorities would be outraged if there were video of the young man’s father whooping his son’s ass up and down the street; punching him in the face, jerking him around by the hoodie, and pushing him back home. I imagine that cops would take time out fighting for their lives to arrest such a father.