This bulletin is adapted from the first panel of three at a Manhattan Institute conference, "Moving Men into the Mainstream: The Next Steps in Urban Reform," held in New York on June 21, 2006. The other panel discussions are available in Civic Bulletins 44 and 45
JOHN McWHORTER: Today we are going to discuss the issue of reconnecting a certain segment of disadvantaged men into the workforce. The Manhattan Institute has been instrumental in forging the reform of welfare legislation, beginning with the actual legislation in 1996, and by all measures, this policy has been a success. It certainly has not been a magic bullet, but we are seeing that most of the women who have participated in these programs are working and childhood poverty, especially among African-Americans, is on the decline, and has reduced most quickly since 1996, when these programs were instituted.
It can be said, however, that we have only done half the job in initiating these policies because welfare reform has focused in particular on women. Meanwhile, since about 1966, some men have experienced similar problems. We face a problem in that a very large number of disadvantaged men, particularly Black and Brown men, are disconnected from the workforce, regardless of the state of the economy and with only a fitful relationship to the availability of low skill work. The question we are here to discuss today is what policies we should pursue to remedy this trend.
The first panel will present an overview of the issues. Ronald Mincy, Professor of Social Policy and Social Work at Columbia University, is the first panelist. Next, we will hear from Hillard Pouncy, Visiting Professor at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy at Princeton and a specialist on anti-poverty legislation, whose work also focuses on bringing exoffenders back into the workforce. Next, Lawrence Mead is a professor in the Political Science Department at New York University and a specialist on anti-poverty legislation and welfare reform. Our program today also includes the Manhattan Institute's own Abigail Thernstrom, author of Whose Votes Count? and America in Black and White, which she coauthored with her husband Stephan Thernstrom. More recently, she has written No Excuses.