Monday, January 19, 2015

For Martin Luther King Day: Help Black Families

Harvard's Peterson
Paul Peterson, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, reminds us on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day about family structure’s link to black (and others) income inequality:
The percentage of African-American children living in single-parent families climbed from less than 30% in 1965 to 50% in 2013. The percentage of white and Hispanic children in single-parent households has also risen sharply.
Peterson, who is also affiliated with Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, adds that
Designs of some [Great Society] programs actively discouraged marriage. Welfare assistance went to mothers — so long as no male was in the household. Once a family income crossed a specific threshold, access to most resources disappeared. . . incentives [that] encouraged childbirth even when the prospects of marriage were minimal. In many urban neighborhoods, pregnancies were seen by future mothers as opportunities to begin life anew.
Peterson notes things got better after creation of the Earned Income Tax Credit (ETIC), which by 1994 gave two-child families up to $4,000 annually. Economists concluded that by 2005, at a cost of $34 billion annually, ETIC had lifted “more children out of poverty than any other government program.” ETIC worked in tandem with Clinton-era welfare reforms that required single parents to enter a training program or the workforce.

Peterson says that looking forward:
  • we do not need to eliminate Great Society programs, but we do need to finish redesigning them, remodeling the EITC so that its incentives positively impact married families, with tax credits replacing welfare benefits lost upon marriage. 
  • we also need new job opportunities for young workers with limited job skills, with incentives for employers to hire young, less-skilled employees, including modifying minimum wage and other restrictive labor laws. 
  • and we need to facilitate student choice and access to a broad range of high schools, vocational programs, training programs and other institutions that support young people during the key years of transition from school to work.

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