Over the last several months—and especially the last few weeks—much has been made of the “Ferguson effect.” The phenomenon is now so widely discussed that it has its own Wikipedia page (though I wouldn’t suggest visiting it for an explanation). St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson coined the phrase in November of 2014, but Heather MacDonald popularized it in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 2015. In early 2016, she again described the Ferguson effect:
Since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014, the conceit that American policing is lethally racist has dominated media and political discourse, from the White House on down. Cops in minority neighborhoods in Chicago and other cities have responded by backing away from pedestrian stops and public-order policing; criminals are flourishing in the vacuum.
In other words, because of the lies of liberals, many American policeman have taken their nightsticks and their nine-millimeters out of some of the most dangerous areas in the U.S. and criminals are taking full advantage. As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, given that black Americans typically live in the most dangerous parts of our nation, it is black Americans who are suffering the most from police disengagement from “discretionary enforcement activity.”
In my last piece I barely mentioned the effects of the absence of fathers on black children in America. The current political and moral climate in the U.S. demands that we give this grave issue more attention. Again, out-of-wedlock births in the U.S. are at historic highs, and the vast majority of black children in America are born to single mothers. And just as criminal gangs and other undesirables fill the void of absent police officers in American neighborhoods, the same thing happens—but on a much larger and more destructive scale—when fathers are absent from the family.
There are over 100 cities in the U.S.—from Atlanta to Utica—with populations north of 50,000 in which more than half of the households are headed by single parents. Of course, the vast majority of these households are led by single moms. These cities are the most dangerous places in the U.S. Given the rate of black out-of-wedlock births, and with most black Americans living in large U.S. cities (about 75%), millions of American black children are growing up fatherless in the most crime-ridden places in America.
Among many other sadoutcomes, fatherlessness is one of the leading predictors of future criminal activity. Children living with their married biological parents are the least likely to commit criminal acts. On the other hand, children from single-parent homes (almost always without a father) are “more likely to…engage in questionable behavior, struggle academically, and become delinquent. Problems with children from fatherless families can continue into adulthood. These children are three times more likely to end up in jail by the time they reach age 30 than are children raised in intact families, and have the highest rates of incarceration in the United States.”
As the breakdown of the family has been hotly debated in the U.S. for years now, you’ve almost certainly heard the above stats before. However, long before the rampant disintegration of the family in America began, researchers were revealing what common sense and sound morality always knew. As authors Kevin and Karen Wright point out:
Research into the idea that single-parent homes may produce more delinquents dates back to the early 19th century…. [O]fficials at New York State's Auburn Penitentiary, in an attempt to discern the causes of crime, studied the biographies of incarcerated men. Reports to the legislature in 1829 and 1830 suggested that family disintegration resulting from the death, desertion, or divorce of parents led to undisciplined children who eventually became criminals.
Fatherlessness is the single greatest cause of poverty in the U.S. As Robert Rector pointed out years ago, “Being raised in a married family reduced a child’s probability of living in poverty by about 80 percent.” In order to further their big government agenda, modern liberals often point to education as the answer to poverty in America. However, marriage is a far better weapon against poverty than is education. Again, as Rector points out, “being married has the same effect in reducing poverty that adding five to six years to a parent’s level of education has.” In addition, a child living in a single-parent home where the parent is a college graduate is nearly twice as likely to live in poverty as a child living with their married parents whose highest level of education is completing high school.
Marriage provides the safest environment for children. In addition to being much more likely to live in crime-ridden communities, children born to single moms face much more danger inside the home than do children living with their married parents. As marripedia points out:
- The rate of physical abuse is 3 times higher in the single parent family.
- The rate of physical abuse is 4 times higher if mother is cohabiting with the child’s biological father (unmarried).
- The rate of physical abuse is 5 times higher if the child is living in a married step family.
- The rate of physical abuse is 10 times higher if the mother is cohabiting with a boyfriend.
The rates for sexual abuse are even worse than physical abuse:
- The rate of sexual abuse is 5 times higher in the single parent family and when both biological parents are cohabiting (i.e. unmarried).
- The rate of sexual abuse is 8.6 times higher if the child is living in a married step family.
- The rate of sexual abuse is 20 times higher if the mother is cohabiting with a boyfriend.
Contrary to popular belief, the most likely physical abuser of a child in a single-parent home is the mother. Because they lack the financial, emotional, and other support of a husband and a father in the home, single moms are more likely to experience anger, impatience, anxiety, and feelings of helplessness. Additionally, single moms are more likely to be depressed and feel rejected by their children than are women who have a husband.
As tragic as the outcomes of the Ferguson effect are, the fatherless effect is much more wide-ranging, common, and deadly in American society. The good news, though: if we solve the fatherless effect, there is not even an opportunity to experience the Ferguson effect.
(See this column at American Thinker.)
(See this column at American Thinker.)
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor is the author of The Miracle and Magnificence of America