Thomas Sowell Happily Removes Color From the Success Equation
Hoover Institution economist Thomas Sowell has long made a case that it is not racism that makes Blacks on average poorer than other Americans.
Data concerning Nigerian immigrants and their children emphasize this point. The Migration Policy Institute reported in 2015 that they have a higher median household income than other Americans, and are more likely to have a college degree, a master’s degree, a Ph. D, or a professional degree and to be employed in professional or managerial occupations.
Some contend that Nigerian immigrants and their children are different from other Black Americans, but – as Sowell has noted – the theory that Blacks on average are poorer because their skin color subjects them to racism cannot distinguish these immigrants and their children from other Americans with the same skin color. Racism isn’t preventing these immigrants and their children from moving ahead, so it can’t be the reason that Blacks on average trail economically.
Rather than racism, Sowell has highlighted a different factor as the big brake on Blacks’ success: while “[m]ost black children were raised in two-parent families prior to the 1960s." With the rise of the welfare state, “today the great majority of black children are raised in one-parent families.”
Census Bureau data show that in 1960, only 22 percent of Black children lived with a single parent (compared with seven percent of white children); by 2019, 51 percent of Black children lived with only one parent (compared with 21 percent of white children). Research studies summarized by a July 2020 U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee report show that those who are not raised in homes with married parents are more likely “to experience physical, emotional or sexual abuse,” have worse health, exhibit more aggression, “to engage in delinquent behavior,” have lower educational achievement, earn less as adults, and “to live in poverty.”
As Sowell eloquently put it: “Non-judgmental subsidies of counterproductive lifestyles are treating people as if they were livestock, to be fed and tended by others in a welfare state – and yet expecting them to develop as human beings have developed when facing the challenges of life themselves. One key fact that keeps getting ignored is that the poverty rate among black married couples has been in single digits every year since 1994.”
In his new book, “Charter Schools and Their Enemies,” Sowell compared the performance of the overwhelmingly poor Black and Hispanic students in charter schools “in Harlem and other low-income minority communities in New York City” with that of students in the same grades in traditional public schools housed in the same buildings.
He found that these charter school students “pass the statewide mathematics tests at a rate more than 6 times the rate at which traditional public school students, housed in the same buildings, pass the same test.”
Yet in New York City alone, he notes, “there are more than 50,000 students on waiting lists to get into charter schools.” These students are on waiting lists because the opponents of charter schools, including the Black Lives Matter movement, have persuaded those in power to tightly limit any expansion of charter schools.