NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 6, 2005

Versions of every program being proposed by the administration in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina have been tried before and evaluated. We already know that the programs are mismatched with the characteristics of the underclass, says Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute.

Job training? Unemployment in the underclass is not caused by lack of jobs or of job skills, but by the inability to get up every morning and go to work. A homesteading act? The lack of home ownership is not caused by the inability to save money from meager earnings, but because the concept of thrift is alien. You name it, we've tried it. It doesn't work with the underclass, says Murray.


  • The crime rate has been dropping for 13 years, but the proportion of young men who grow up unsocialized and who, given the opportunity, commit crimes, has not; criminality, measured by the percentage of the population under correctional supervision has risen from 1.9 percent in 1992 to 2.4 percent in 2003.
  • Among black males ages 20-24, the percentage not working or looking for work in 1954 was 9 percent, but that rate grew to 30 percent in 1999, a year when employers were frantically seeking workers for every level of job.
  • The illegitimacy ratio, the percentage of births by single women, was 4 percent in the 1950s and has risen to 35 percent as of 2003; the black illegitimacy ratio in 2003 was 68 percent, up from 24 percent in the 1960s.

Poor people who are not part of the underclass seldom need help to get out of poverty. Despite the exceptions that get the newspaper ink, the statistical reality is that people who get into the American job market and stay there seldom remain poor unless they do something self-destructive. And behaving self-destructively is the hallmark of the underclass, says Murray.

Source: Charles Murray, "The Hallmark of the Underclass," Wall Street Journal, September 29, 2005.

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