NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Where Did The Poor Go?

September 2, 1999

While a sampling of current political rhetoric might suggest that the problem of poverty has gone away, Charles Murray believes it hasn't. Murray, whose "Losing Ground" in 1984 outlined how welfare reinforced poverty, has examined the issue in a new book, "The Underclass Revisited." He says three indicators of how widespread the underclass is are the extent of criminality, dropouts from the work force among young males and the proportion of children born out of wedlock.

  • Regarding crime, it isn't actually down; we've simply done a better job of locking up criminals who would otherwise be committing more crimes.
  • The number of black males aged 16 to 24 who aren't working, looking for work or not in school has risen, even with the booming economy, to an all-time high of 24 percent in 1997 from just 15 percent in 1980.
  • Even white male unemployment is 7 percent, up 25 percent since 1990.
  • The good news about the illegitimacy ratio among blacks is that it has leveled off; the bad news is that leveled off at about 70 percent, while among whites it has doubled since the early 1980s.

Because the underclass has disappeared from political view, Murray says, few see the need to take decisive steps to address these problems.

Source: Charles Oliver, "Author Charles Murray on Vanishing Debate Over America's Underclass," Investor's Business Daily, September 2, 1999.


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