April 14, 1999
Next Steps In Welfare Reform, continued
Cities on A Hill: Challenges and Success Stories
Mr. OLSEN: I'd like to introduce our moderator for this panel, Dr. Larry Mead, Professor of Politics at New York University and one of the nation's most renowned academic experts on welfare issues and welfare reform. He is the author of Beyond Entitlement and a number of other books and articles about welfare reform. He'll be kicking off the discussion and introducing the other members of the panel.
Dr. MEAD: Thanks very much. I appreciate Mayor Goldsmith's remarks, which were somewhat similar to what I have to say.
This is, I believe, a pivotal moment in social policy, and even, I would say, in the history of the country. Welfare reform is proceeding with far greater speed than I, or anybody else, would have expected. The caseload for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, which is the main welfare program, has been cut by almost half, from 14 million people roughly five years ago to 7.6 million as of December 1998.
The drop started in 1994, but then it accelerated with the enactment of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in 1996. I tell my students if you can pronounce that you get an “A” in my course.
The fact is people are simply leaving welfare in droves, more than we ever thought possible. Academics who look at this give the credit to a good economy. They say the economy is simply the best we've ever had and that's why people are leaving welfare. I don't find that plausible. The fact is we had a good economy ten years ago too, and the labor market was almost as tight as now, and that's when the welfare rolls started to go up, increasing 30 percent by 1994.
I think two other factors have been critical. One is the gathering force of work requirements. Previously enacted initiatives have led to a buildup of work programs at the local level, and these are beginning to have an effect. They're starting to change the nature of welfare at the local level.
There’s also been a change in our political culture, and the nation is now more resistant than before to the idea of dependency. The emphasis in our public debate is on self-reliance. And that message is getting across. So people are leaving welfare, and also a lot of people who previously would have gone on the rolls are simply avoiding it.
W can also say that the effects of reform are remarkably positive. We know from state surveys of former welfare recipients that about two-thirds of those leaving the rolls are employed. That is, they are working at the time of the survey. That's a sharp increase over what we see when people are on welfare.
There's also been a sharp increase in employment among poor adults, according to government surveys. We’ve seen a very dramatic increase in the last few years. As a result, income levels are rising among those at the bottom of society and poverty rates are falling. There have been especially favorable developments in this area. In particular, the rate of black poverty is falling very, very rapidly. That group is now less poor than Hispanics.
The news is not entirely good. A smaller number of people who have left welfare are not working and these are the people who have less income than they had on welfare. So there's a concern about them. However, there's a notable lack of acute hardship. We do not see families on the street, a rise in homelessness or foster care, and so on. We don't see families coming apart under the stress of welfare reform. That's what a lot of experts predicted. But that’s not happening. On the contrary, we see, on balance, major improvements in the condition of the poor and the near poor.
So it's clear we're not going back. That's the first truth that we start with. Reform is irrevocable. Work is now going to be required as the price of assistance, and the idea of welfare as an entitlement is dying. I think that's all clear.
But two critical tasks remain, and these are what we're going to focus on today. First of all, the current reform must be completed. If you look around the states, there's no avoiding the fact that dependency has declined a lot more in small and rural states than it has in states with big cities. The big states with the large caseloads are behind the curve. Although the caseloads are shrinking, they’re not shrinking as much. And there isn’t the same sense that the system has been transformed. So these states need to learn how to do it from the smaller states.
The second task, the one that Mayor Goldsmith has already commented on, is to
rebuild the welfare system. Welfare isn't going to disappear entirely. There are going to be people who need help even though everyone can work at some level. The American people want us to go on helping the needy as long as long as they are doing something to help themselves. And that remains imperative, however much the caseload shrinks, however small it becomes.
So we have to design a new welfare system that focuses on employment and then supporting people at work. This is the reverse of what we traditionally had. What we traditionally did is put people on welfare and then said “now let's move them towards work.” What we have to do instead is start off with work and then support people as necessary while they are employed. We need something that I would describe as the reinvention of the welfare system.
That involves paying attention to the various issues that Mayor Goldsmith has alluded to, particularly the need to build a structure for the fathers. We've developed a way of moving mothers towards employment, and that is very constructive, but we have to develop a similar structure for men. That structure will no doubt take account of the need to get financial support from fathers to children. Experts are already developing programs along these lines. It's an institutional challenge. It involves reinventing those institutions.
The other thing that's clearly going to happen is that the reinvention of welfare is going to involve an interface with what has been called the civil society. Government can get a lot of help in running the new services from private organizations, groups that come out of the civil society, groups that represent the dynamism of the private sector. They, working with government, can build a more effective welfare structure than we've had in the past.
In this conference we're going to have two panels. One will focus on the first challenge I mentioned, which is completing welfare reform, and the second on the second challenge, rebuilding the system.
I'd like now to introduce our first panelists. All of them, I am pleased to say, I count as friends as well as colleagues in our common endeavor.
Jean Rogers has been Administrator of the Division of Economic Support in Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development since 1991. As everyone knows, Wisconsin has led the nation and the world towards a new work-based welfare system. Under the leadership of Governor Thompson, Jean has been in charge of implementing that reform. She was present at the creation, or the re-creation, of the welfare state in Wisconsin. She has presided, quite simply, over a revolution in American public policy. The implications of the Wisconsin reform are absolutely revolutionary.
They are the most positive development in American social policy, I think, in the last 40 years. Jean is here to tell us a little bit about how they did it and how other states might do the same.
Jason Turner is Commissioner of the Human Resources Administration in New York City. Formerly, he was one of the leaders responsible for planning and implementing the Wisconsin reforms. These days he's trying to bring some of the same practices to the Big Apple. New York is now the front lines of welfare reform, the place where the battle for fundamental change still has to be fought and won.
With the support of Mayor Giuliani, Jason has made enormous progress in changing the system, not only in reducing the caseload, but beginning to reinvent the institutions. But, to put it mildly, New York is not Wisconsin. There is a lot more resistance to change, fundamental change, in the Big Apple than there is in the Badger State. Jason will give us a progress report on that struggle.
Finally, Eloise Anderson is currently Director of the Program for the American Family at the Claremont Institute in California. Prior to the last election, she was Director of the Department of Social Services in California. She helped sell the cause of reform in that huge and diverse state. As an Easterner I sometimes think our lives would be simplified if we could somehow detach California and let it float off in the Pacific Ocean.
But we can't do that. California is the biggest state in the nation. And there is no way to reform welfare without getting California on board. That is something that Eloise has struggled to do for a number of years. California has produced, of course, some path-breaking programs in welfare reform, notably in San Diego and Riverside Counties. But it also has big city welfare departments in places like Los Angeles and Oakland where there has been much less change. So California is also on the front lines of the battle we’re talking about, and Eloise will give us an update on what is happening there.
The panelists speak in the order in which they were introduced
JEAN ROGERS: It's really a pleasure to be here today to discuss the possibility of replicating “Wisconsin Works” in other states, and to look at our experience with running the program to date.
In 1987, there were nearly 100,000 families dependent on AFDC in Wisconsin. When we replaced AFDC with W2 in September of 1997, a decade of Governor Thompson's efforts at reform had already reduced the caseload to 34,491. Many people thought there was little chance to reduce that number even further. They were mistaken.
Over the past year-and-a-half, the cash assistance caseload has continued to shrink. As of this February, it was below 9,000. Milwaukee's share was 83.8 percent of the caseload. That's a decline, actually, from when it peaked in July at 87 percent. How was this accomplished? The success of W2 depends on more than check distribution. W2 is really a work-based program that provides access to the tools necessary for families to become self-sufficient.
Governor Thompson pledged not only to require work, but also to provide services that support people who get jobs in ways that help them build on their strengths.
How did we make this shift from an income support program to a work support program? We knew we had broad public support. The challenge was to get state staff and local staff as well as the advocate community on board. So we involved them in the process by gathering input from literally hundreds of stakeholders. The result was the philosophy that is the basis for Wisconsin Works: For those who can work, only work should pay. That's the first of our eight principles. And here are the rest.
- Everyone is capable of making a contribution to society through work, based on their abilities.
- Both parents, whether or not they're living with their children, are expected to be equally responsible for care and support.
- The benchmark for determining the new system's fairness involves a comparison with low-income families who work, and not with people who are receiving government benefits.
- The system is designed to reinforce behavior that leads to independence and personal responsibility and self-sufficiency.
- Communities can support individual efforts to achieve self-sufficiency.
- W2 provides only as much service as people need or ask for.
- And last, we have reassessed government's traditional role of being the presumptive provider in managing these programs, and we allow other providers to compete for the privilege of providing these services.
Together these basic principles are the foundation of W2 and, frankly, the foundation of its success.
Can W2, particularly the Milwaukee experience, be replicated? Maybe the better question is, should it be? If a community is to implement a program successfully, it must have ownership of it. It must start by measuring the public readiness for change in that part of the world. After more than a decade of welfare-to-work program experience, we find there are some basic tenets that form the foundation of how we establish work-focused programs. It is these preparatory activities, I think, that are replicable.
For instance, develop the philosophies and goals that will define your program in the long-term, and the policies will follow. These principles served as the foundation for the design of our program. They also helped the community understand why we made certain decisions that, on their own, might have been unpopular, like time limits and sanctions. Developing your own philosophy really is critical to selling the program to legislators, to clients and the caseworkers who deliver it.
Here's another foundation point: Set your course from a behavior perspective. Determine the behavior that you want and shape your program to achieve it. Then shop for program components somewhere else that fit your model. Of course, we think that you'll find many of them in W2 in Wisconsin.
Start with a program that's simple to implement, low-cost, requires little or no legislation, and can demonstrate some early success. And send a clear and consistent message. Establish expectations for clients and providers, holding both accountable for performance.
You know, the entitlement system didn't work very well for our participants, and it doesn't work very well for service providers for the same reasons. Performance standards must be based on outcome and not on process. Our W2 provider agencies know that contract renewal depends on their performance.
The size of the agency is critical as well. In Milwaukee, we divided the county into six service delivery regions, each represented by a separate W2 agency. Both nonprofit and for-profit agencies work with government in a model that fosters collaboration and program innovation. As we hoped, the local W2 agencies are becoming an integral part of the Milwaukee communities, and diverse communities they are. They're becoming helpful and productive partners in improving opportunity within the city's neighborhoods.
That supports another one of the guiding principles of W2, that people are parts of various communities. It's important to remember why W2 exists in the first place: To ensure the well being of children. W2 agencies subcontract with dozens of community-based organizations that provide face-to-face client services that help stabilize families so the parents can work.
One of the most important gifts I think that Wisconsin can give to other states looking to build work-focused assistance programs is the benefit of our experience. Others won't have to live through the cry of the "it can't be done" pundits. Their prediction was that that the labor market would not support all these people. The reality turned out to be that jobs are plentiful to the point that there are worker shortages in some categories. The average starting wage for W2 participants is $6.72 an hour and rising.
They also predicted that child welfare would be in jeopardy. The reality? An Urban Institute study done between February and November 1997 – when Wisconsin had already made a major shift to the work-focused programs – showed we had the lowest child poverty rate at 11 percent. The national rate was 20 percent. Wisconsin had the highest number of employed poor parents, 74.4 percent. The national average was 65 percent. On more than 90 percent of the measures, Wisconsin ranked near the top.
What about the inner city? Many picture it as overrun by crime, and housing scores of drug addicts living on welfare checks. And violent crime is falling. Those are the findings of a new study at the University of Wisconsin. It shows the city's becoming a better place to live, and has appeal for new businesses. In fact, if you went down to King Boulevard, one of the key business growth areas that you'd see is tax preparation. I think that's a pretty good sign of what's going on. Welfare only accounts for a small portion of what's going on in terms of income.
Is getting people a job our goal? No. The first step is moving people into work. But it's only the first step. The real goal is to help them stay employed. What we have to do is make sure the support services are there: child care, food stamps, Medicaid and transportation assistance. And with more than 50 percent of these parents lacking high school equivalency degrees, we're putting more emphasis on education. Through W2 case management we're encouraging people to enhance their skills with additional education and training while they are working, not instead of working, in order to help them increase their earnings and build their careers.
We continue to attract people to Wisconsin who we hope learn from our experience, and then adopt all or part of the program in their states or communities. Some of these efforts are aided by the fact that, in essence, W2 is comprised of a set of clearly identifiable components, so each can be replicated separately as well.
Other states and regions face different circumstances in terms of political climate, economic conditions and the like. If they adapt some of the core W2 concepts to their situation, they too can replicate our success.
What are these core concepts? Two elements are the most essential: The first is time limits. And the second is a 100 percent work requirement that also has consequences for noncompliance.
Time limits are key because people are procrastinators by nature. We have a room full of them right here. And one standing in front of you. We need those urgent pushes. Forging attachment to the workforce takes time. The longer the work history you have, the better chance you're going to be able to hold on to a job or get another one when times are tough. And the staff needs that push as well.
Employers need our people for work today. Most importantly, our children can't wait one day longer to have parents who act as role models and show them the importance of work. And a lifetime limit on how much income assistance one can receive encourages people to treat government benefits like an insurance policy. Use it sparingly and only when you have to.
The strict work requirement? Although time limits can be strong motivators, I think many low-income parents would like to work but don't know how. We teach them. W2 has everyone required to participate.
So the question remains, can the Wisconsin model, which is working successfully in Milwaukee and across the rest of the state, be replicated? Of course, if there's the administrative will. But it isn't a good idea to pick up any program wholesale and just put it somewhere else.
Immediate workforce attachment is at the core of W2's philosophy. This may ultimately be the direction of your program. But it really is critical that you develop your own concept of social reform. Once you have a locally developed philosophy that sets the parameters for the program, then you can save development time by shopping around for pieces.
Some of our visitors very much like what they hear about W2, and some of them take issue with the stricter aspects. But I think all of us know that children, who will be the adults of tomorrow, do so by following in footsteps of the role models they have today. Their parents are those role models. We want both to succeed, and that requires work. And working parents need support from their families and the community and their employer to succeed in the workplace.
W2 combines these necessary support services and employer partnerships to provide Wisconsin families with the safety net that they need. I think Wisconsin is providing a blueprint for ways to assure a better future for poor families far beyond our borders.
Is W2 replicable? It must be. The future of our poorest children and our children as a whole really depend on it. Thanks.
Dr. MEAD: That's what you expect in Wisconsin. She finished early. Okay. Jason.
JASON TURNER: Thank you, Larry. I'm going to talk a little bit about programs, but more about the theoretical model that needs to be part of any system intended to revolutionize the concept of welfare.
I'm going to talk about four things: First, the problem of excessive wealth in our country; second, the importance of creating boundaries; third, the importance of creating substitute families; and finally, the necessity of instituting a universal work obligation, not just within the program, but across the system.
As the 20th Century draws to a close, the most major problem facing western society may be determining how to organize human institutions in the face of excessive wealth. The existence of large amounts of wealth requires those with access to it to deploy it wisely. Wealth on the scale that we have now in western society can be damaging. It makes it possible for individuals to become autonomous, with the result that the connections between individuals and social institutions atrophy.
Relations between individuals exist to assure their survival through the sharing of goods and responsibilities. Human institutions that codify those relationships exist to facilitate the sharing of goods and social responsibilities.
Through most of human history, when food and goods are extremely scarce, the family unit is tightly bound. Where there’s a little bit more than what’s necessary to survive, families set aside a little bit for the future. Where there's still more, they give to others with the expectation of possible reciprocation. But where goods overflow, well-meaning people can distribute them anonymously without making the individual human connections that are so important. In short, people can distribute goods through anonymous institutions such as government, creating a welfare system, as an example.
To a degree, story of social welfare policy at the end of this century involves the understanding that we have to control access to unrestricted income so that the connections between people and institutions can be restored. The next task of conservative thinkers and intellectuals is to try and understand more fully the nature of giving – both government and charitable giving -- and look at ways to make it constructive rather than destructive.
A recent article in The New York Times described the situation of a Wisconsin grandmother who discovered that she was going to be responsible for her grandchild. The reason was that the mother was not meeting her responsibilities, had no more access to unrestricted income, and was in jail. The reporter began the article by describing the grandmother standing outside the jail accusing the mother of not meeting her responsibilities. It was a very unfortunate incident, and, in a sense, the reporter was intending to show this as a negative byproduct of the new system.
But I think the planners of the Wisconsin system actually thought that the removal of cash assistance could actually cause interactions like this to take place. The hope is that the mother and the grandmother will begin to rely on one another and understand that each is connected to the other. We’re recreating bonds and understanding in that one family unit. So I saw that incident as the beginning of constructive change, although an unfortunate incident in and of itself.
Let me turn to the necessity of boundaries when you're creating an effective program. The individuals we try and help have had an absence of boundaries. They've had excess freedom. They have not had sufficient incentives for doing well in school, for breaking out of the welfare system, or attempting to achieve. There have been an insufficient number of individuals in many welfare recipients' lives who have said, “This is a boundary within which you must conform.” We need to help individuals to mobilize their internal resources and, in some disciplined way, to apply these resources. The inability to mobilize these resources is the chief impediment to success that many welfare recipients in the current system face.
In the administration of our programs in New York, we try and create artificial, but important, boundaries, for individuals to work within as they become fully responsible adults. We're finding we have to create boundaries in which work equals income, so that we elicit learned constructive responses. Rather than do this in a classroom setting, we need to set up a welfare program in which adults can practice work and receive benefits, and where the consequences of non-work or ineffective work are met with an immediate system response. This kind of system in which welfare is connected to work is where the most important learning occurs.
As many of you know, Mayor Giuliani has implemented the largest work experience program in the country. We currently have more than 30 thousand people working every day in New York City in the Parks Department, in the Sanitation Department, removing graffiti from locations, working in libraries, and cleaning in the court system. And we continue to increase the number of people in the work experience program.
But when an individual shows up, say, at the Parks Department, they're not learning a particular skill. What they're learning is that at eight o'clock you have to be with the crew. You learn that when a crew leader gives you instructions he's not disrespecting you; he has the authority, and one must subsume one's own ego to get along. And you learn one has to be able to produce something of value through a sustained effort during an eight-hour day. Now that may be obvious, but the only way to learn it is to practice it.
I talked about boundaries. Let me talk now about creating substitute families. Much has been said about the need to involve men in the recreation of a civil society; Mayor Goldsmith touched on this. We're often asked how welfare reforms that are primarily focused on women can help also bring men into the system. Of course, most men do not receive benefits through the welfare program, so that represents a limitation to program planners.
Some men respond in the same way as women, but some don’t. Rather than a nurturing environment, men oftentimes respond to belonging to self-reinforcing groups. Here is a kernel of wisdom regarding what can be effective with many men that we have to deal with:
I attended a recent graduation of the a group of men New York City in a homeless shelter who are overcoming their addictions. They are like members of Alcoholics Anonymous but more so, creating very intense bonds with each other and helping each other remain free of alcohol and drug abuse. What was interesting is that all of these men went to work for the first time at the conclusion of their program, and they talked about the importance of belonging to a family. These men had created relationships with other men that were very important to their spiritual and programmatic change.
I think we need to use our access and time better with men who, unfortunately, are inside the criminal justice system at various points. In New York City, we are trying to learn how to use the time men are on probation to require them to create and work with these substitute family groups.
Finally, I want to talk about the importance of the universality of work. Mayor Giuliani wants work to be part of a reciprocal obligation on the part of any citizen receiving assistance from the city. Think of a three-tiered system of effectiveness with increasing effectiveness along the way. The least effective kind of interaction involves having a service delivered to an individual, like job training, within a program context. It’s not good and not effective alone.
The second, better, way is to incorporate reciprocal obligations like work between the individual and the program, so that there's something going on between the two. The idea is that giving something in return for the assistance is thought of as part of the treatment.
Finally, and I think this is where we need to go in terms of next steps of welfare reform, you need to create a system in which reciprocal obligations are present at all points of interaction with a system, not just within the work program or the cash assistance program.
As an example, work is becoming an obligation now for individuals who interact with all major means tested benefit programs in New York City. Let me tell you what they are. First, cash assistance. Second, food stamps. New York eliminated the exemption that kept people who were just receiving food stamps and not cash assistance from having to go to work.
Third, among the most valuable means-tested benefits you can receive in the welfare system are public and Section 8 housing. Yet, almost no obligations are imposed upon those individuals who receive this very valuable assistance. Mayor Giuliani wants to connect a work obligation with those who are receiving public housing and Section 8 benefits.
In substance abuse treatment, almost all clinicians support work as an integral part of therapy. But I think therapy becomes much more effective when it's an obligation for those receiving cash assistance. That is, you're more likely to complete and benefit from treatment where it's connected with work and your cash assistance.
Finally, and this was somewhat controversial in New York when it was announced, individuals who move into homeless shelters now -- starting with men, but later women as well -- will be expected to register for work after they are settled in.
So if you want cash assistance, if you want food stamps, if you want public housing, if you're in substance abuse treatment, and in the worst case, if you find yourself in a homeless shelter, we have a job for you. And we have a way to help you make your way out of your circumstances. Thank you.
Dr. MEAD: Jason, you should be the professor. I'm amazed that you were able to think that through on the firing line. Eloise.
ELOISE. ANDERSON: When the federal government passed welfare reform, the goal was to reduce dependency, strengthen parental supports and eliminate the entitlement. If I look at the federal law, that's basically what I see.
But when I got really interested in this in the 1970s, my chief focus was the growing underclass. Being an urban person, having one foot in the rural side of life, the urban underclass was actually of more interest to me than any of the other issues. Looking at them from both a street level position and a policy position, it was clear that this group was growing, it had persistently weak labor force attachments, and it was isolated.
The questions that one has to ask are how do you begin to diminish the size of the underclass, and then, how do you eliminate it? Welfare reform had to address these questions in some way or it would be of no use in dealing with the urban conditions I saw.
How do you support and encourage two parent families? Marriage is extremely important to children. Now whatever else adults want to do, it's fine. But we haven't really found a better institution for children, and I think we ought to quit playing games around it. And as policymakers we play all kinds of games around it. But it is the best institution we found for children.
Second, it is the best institution for men, which is interesting. It's not necessarily the best institution for women, but it is clearly the best institution for children and men. One of the things that we're going to have to think about in our social policy is how do we start to move in the direction of encouraging marriage?
Another issue, which is very difficult for us to deal with, is how to discourage adolescent pregnancy and adolescent parenting. Now for some people it is a hard issue because our grandmothers or great-grandmothers were adolescents when they had children. Biologically many of us are better off having children at a younger age than an older age, if everything is going well. So our biology and our sociology are in different places.
Additionally, one of the things that we know is that female puberty is getting earlier, which makes the whole notion of trying to deal with adolescent pregnancy even more difficult. The one thing we know through a couple of studies that were done in Scandinavian countries is that when fathers are not in the home, puberty in girls starts early. So we've got even more indications about the need for men at home.
Work. I believe has many positive, beneficial effects. One, if we do work and we do it well, even if we don't like it, it forces us to develop an attachment to the workforce. The underclass issue begins to get dealt with. Work also reduces isolation, a very important issue for people in the underclass. And it begins to change parental horizons. It doesn’t necessarily change their daily behavior. I don't really much care what they do every day as long as what they think about in terms of the future begins to change. Humans are future-oriented animals. Members of the underclass are not necessarily future-oriented, but in this society you don't do well unless you look ahead. It is important that parents be future-oriented with their children.
So work has all these benefits, which I believe are very important for the underclass.
I see a couple of barriers in the way. First of all, there is serious parental dysfunction with our society. On the other hand, one of the things that work does help us with is to begin identifying parental dysfunction pretty early. What used to happen is that we gave people money, and these behaviors would continue. We'd see them too late in the day to do much good, either when the kids entered school or when we had to bring in child welfare services. Now we are beginning to see them when they're not working, and we need to examine what’s going on, because it may be more than just a lack of interest in working.
Second is substance abuse. I wouldn't say illegal substance abuse because alcohol is high on the list of the issues that we need to address in families who are not able to attach themselves to work. I also believe that we need to begin to ask a hard question. If you are unable to work, are you really able to parent? I say this all the time, because the skills that it takes to get up and go to work in the morning are exactly the same skills it takes to parent. So giving people money and then allowing them not to function suggests society is saying it is okay for us not to parent our children.
The mental health issue is a big issue, particularly in terms of depression. I used to joke about it and say if I were on aid every day for 365 days a year for over ten years I would be depressed. But dealing with depression issues and the mental issues are important, especially in their implications for child rearing.
The third obstacle, which is probably the most serious one that we do not pay attention to are parents with developmental problems. We have parents who need supportive services. I'm not talking about taking children away. But there are parents who are not capable of understanding parenting as we do in the modern day, especially in terms of how complicated it is. And they are unable to cope alone. These people need very different kinds of support systems.
Violence in families is a huge issue. Not just men's violence towards women, but mothers' violence towards children. We don't like to talk about that a lot.
Next, we've talked about non-custodial parental obligations a lot. I have some thoughts. Get beyond middle-class notions of child custody and child support, because what works for us doesn't necessarily work for poor people. One notion we need to adopt is joint custody, even for poor men. Others are equal time, and enforcement of visitation rights and custody rights for men. If we're going to make him pay, we need to enforce his right to see the child. Our imbalance here is too big.
We need to have more men who have custody. My belief is if you want to start getting men to be responsible for fathering, give them the responsibility for the child. One way to stop males believing that “I can make a child, but I have no responsibility for the child” is to start giving full custody to fathers. I think you will turn the tide much faster than if you say we're going to give you all this educational stuff. Having to change diapers and get up in the middle of the night are the best deterrents for fathers I've ever seen.
Next, we have to move away from the idea that a lot of these men need four-year university degrees, and help them get technical and trade training. We need plumbers, we need electricians, and we need carpenters. These are skills that can be picked up faster and that these men can learn. They can move from the hand to the brain faster than they can move from no work to the brain. So we need to look at trade skills very quickly for these men.
Life skills development is very important for these men because they have been detached from life skills. Most of their mothers don't raise their sons to be able to function in the larger workplace. They don't give them the skills they need. They give their daughters the skills, but the sons do not get the skills. So we need language and communication skills for these men. We need reproductive health education, and we need child development skills for these men.
Finally, I want to discuss organizational issues. We need to remove TANF from the Social Security Act. We need to separate child support and child protection from TANF. TANF is a work program, and it ought to be in the Department of Labor. Otherwise you are asking the social service organization to do what it was never intended to do with people who are not trained to do it. So move these programs and scatter them out. I think you will get better results.
Slavery in America had a serious impact on the family. Slaves in this country were basically not married. Females in those households did not depend on their husbands. One of the things that marriage does in our society is provide that there is one woman that a man may have a sexual relationship with, and that the children inside the family are his. Slavery diminished that. The woman was not his, sexually, and the children inside of that woman were not necessarily his. That runs rampant through the thinking of black men in this country -- whether or not those children are his, and whether that woman is his in terms of marriage.
We need to rebuild the notion of family in the black community
My last point is that the poor need to have different kinds of experiences than the middle-class. They need to learn how to use resources differently. They need to learn how to delay gratification in ways that we take for granted. And they need to be conservative in ways that we've never thought about.
So my view is that members of the middle-class are probably the inappropriate people to teach the poor anything. Thank you.
Dr. MEAD: Thank you very much, Eloise. We have a few minutes for questions.
QUESTION: I want to ask this of the people of Wisconsin. I'm from Pennsylvania. I've heard a lot of people speaking about the transition we're making from welfare to work. When you bring up Wisconsin they say that the state spends so much per case, so of course, they're going to be successful. And I wondered if you could give me any thoughts on that, and also, do you have any numbers on the money you're spending?
I've also heard that in our welfare program, the top third of the cases were fairly easy to get off the rolls, the second third were harder and needed more support, and now people are saying we're down to the really bottom third who have the worst problems. I would like to hear your thoughts on that.
Dr. MEAD: Jean, why don't you respond to that?
Ms. ROGERS: Let's see if I can keep all that in sequence. First of all, it is true that there has always been a commitment on the part of Governor Thompson to invest richly early on in helping people move in to the workforce. The theory is that if you do so, you will help them move up the economic ladder and actually save the state taxpayer and federal taxpayer money in the long-run.
I see that happening a lot sooner than we planned. We increased our proposed spending on the individual client by 45 percent when we put the W2 package together. We expected it would take about two years before we broke even and started to see a savings. But we actually saw the investment paying off so quickly and the rolls falling so precipitously that we were saving money by the end of about nine months.
So my message is don't be shortsighted in your plan because the payoff really is there, and it’s there incredibly quickly.
Regarding the caseload question. It's true that people with the most in their toolbox will be able to become attached to the workforce easier and leave the rolls sooner. It's also true that caseloads are always being refreshed by new people because of changes in life circumstances. You're never going to have the situation in which your whole caseload is this most difficult to serve population. You have the individual that almost overnight has a child become seriously ill, or a male partner leaves, and she needs a few months of help, to get stabilized and on her way.
The point, though, is that when the caseload size is reduced, you can and must focus even more pointedly on the support systems that are necessary to get the ones left behind where they need to be. And that means, as Eloise pointed out, for instance, focus on life skills and drug and alcohol issues and the like. We're new at figuring out how to do that with people.
QUESTION: I'm an economist, and the individual from New York When I heard one of the panelists mention something like the superabundance of resources -- he had a different phraseology -- I was somewhat taken aback. Maybe he can put it in a little bit different perspective so I can understand.
MR. TURNER: There are two completely different aspects of what I called excessive wealth that need to be thought through.
Government will always have scarce resources, as an economist defines scarce, meaning that there's a limited amount. Therefore, government programs that use those resources need to be structured so that we maximize their cost effectiveness. That's not what I was talking about.
I was actually talking about the fact that at a certain point I believe that individuals who work have so much income at their disposal that they use it in ways that are intended to be helpful, but are actually destructive to the social organism. That's really what I was talking about.
MALE VOICE: I’m from here in Washington, D.C. I have a question for Eloise. Your presentation was really wonderful. Thank you so much. I grew up on AFDC. It's interesting: my sister ended up on welfare for many years, and then we did a family program to get her into work. I gave her a business, then worked with her in the business, and she got out of welfare finally after a great number of years.
I went another path. But when I thought about the causes of that, and then listened to some of the comments you made at the end, I wanted to ask you about them. Your comments about slavery in particular were interesting to me because I've heard Dr. Bob Woodson of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise say the exact opposite of that.
He said that until the 1950s, black families didn't have the high rates of teenage pregnancy and broken families. He points out that the combination of the sexual revolution and the creation and vast expansion of the welfare system created the circumstances for women like my sister who didn't need a man in order to have the necessities of life. And this, combined with the rise of materialism, brought a disconnection to the church community, which was another support system, and created this vast acceleration of the breakdown of the family.
What do think about that argument?
MS. ANDERSON: I know his argument. I think if you look at history, what you find is the black family in America had to deal with an ongoing onslaught. There were very few black families, meaning males and females, during the time of slavery. They tried to form families during the reconstruction period, but American apartheid blew that right out of the water because men could not support their families.
Then you have what I call the great migration north, with men coming north while the women were left in the south. The inability of many men to get work in the north, and the segregation in the north, continually eroded the underpinnings of families. In the United States you always have a larger number of unmarried blacks than whites, if that's our comparison. So over time that large number gets larger and larger, because the children have never seen marriage. They don't know what it looks like, they don't know how to make it work.
The problem now is that the birth rate for the black middle class is dropping, while the birth rate for the black underclass is rising. And if we’re not going to have many inter-racial marriages, it means that members of the middle class will be looking for marriage partners among members of the underclass, who have no experience of the institution. This poses a huge instability in the black community. That's my issue.
Dr. MEAD: We’re out of time. Thank you. Now let me invite Henry back to the podium.
Mr. OLSEN: I think we’ve just heard a number of excellent ideas from a number of successful practitioners. I'm glad you were all able to come.
I'd like now to introduce our next speaker, Dr. Charles Murray. Dr. Murray is someone who I'm sure needs little introduction to all of you, so I will provide a very short one. He broke onto the scene with Losing Ground, his path-breaking reinterpretation of 20th century American social and welfare policy. He has written a number of books since that time, including In Pursuit and What it Means to Be a Libertarian. He currently serves as the Bradley Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and he's here to talk about “Welfare Reform and the Underclass: Hopes and Fears.” Please join me in welcoming Dr. Charles Murray.
DR. MURRAY: For a moment I would like to steer the conversation away from the specifics of welfare reform. You've already heard from experts who know a lot about the nuts and bolts of it, and you're going to have some more. I think it may be useful to try to place what's going on with welfare reform in a broader social context, and that's what I'm going to try to do.
I'm torn, because I work at AEI now. Up the hall in one direction is Ben Wattenberg who wrote the book, The Good News Is That The Bad News Is Wrong. Ben is the eternal optimist. Down the hall in the other direction is Robert Bork, who wrote, Slouching Toward Gomorrah. And between these two planetary pulls I have a rather eccentric orbit myself.
I'm quite schizophrenic about some issues. Other people have said worse things, but I have been in print saying that for the upper half of American society things are actually going quite well. I think Paul Weyrich is wrong in saying that the culture war has been lost. There are lots of ways in which the pendulum not only is starting to swing back, but has been swinging back for several years.
I'm not worried about the state of -- let's say the upper two-thirds of American society. I'm very nervous about what's going on elsewhere, and specifically with regard to the underclass, I'm very nervous. Here are the reasons why.
Let's start with welfare reform, because that is the best source of good news about the underclass. You know what the figures are about the size of the drop. Those numbers are real. I have no problems with those numbers at all. But the question is, how many of those women count as members of the underclass. How many are chronic welfare recipients who are on for many years? As far as I know, we really don't have the answer to that question.
We know that there's been a 40 percent drop. We also know that at any time in the past, about half the welfare caseload was made up of chronic welfare recipients, those on the rolls several years or longer. We also know that about half the total caseload gets on and off welfare within a couple of years. So what is the nature of this population which constitutes the 40 percent?
I'm willing to believe that there has been some reduction in the number of chronic welfare recipients, and I'm willing to say that's authentically good news. But I don't think that's a very large proportion of that 40 percent. We ought to know more this year, when new numbers are collected.
However, it's also worth noting that in my work on the underclass over the last ten to 15 years, I have not been using the welfare rolls as an indicator of its size. When I've been writing about the United States or Great Britain, I have used three other indicators. I want to talk about the situation on those.
First, a definition of terms: By “underclass” I don't mean people who are poor. I don't necessarily mean people who are on welfare. I mean people who are cut off from the mainstream of American life in terms of some very crucial institutions, namely the family, work and neighborhood. Those key elements of a satisfying life exist in their world sometimes in corrupt forms, sometimes in fragmented forms, and sometimes in punishing forms.
The indicators that I have used -- the three outcroppings, if you want to call them that -- are: crime, especially violent crime; the proportion of young males who are not in the labor force; and illegitimacy. Let's go over each of the three.
Crime is down. That's great for those of us who are worried about being victims of crime. Why is crime down? I think that improvements in policing have helped. But there is this one unassailable mammoth fact about crime. If we were still imprisoning people at the rate we were in 1980 -- and by the rate I mean the number of prisoners per thousand crimes -- we would have 555,000 people in the nation's correctional facilities. We actually have 1.8 million.
In other words, we have an additional 1.3 million people in prison now because of changed policies. I ask you to imagine what would happen to the crime rate a week from now if tomorrow we let 1.3 million people out of jail. I'm willing to say that a lot of those people shouldn't be in jail because they don't pose a threat. I'm not saying we have been efficient in our imprisonment policies. I'm also willing to say there are a lot of people who should be in jail and who are not. But I am saying that we would no longer be bragging about a falling crime rate if we let go 1.3 million people. The only remaining question is how sky-high the rate would be.
The reduction in crime is real. It has not been achieved by socializing the members of the underclass, but by putting large numbers of them behind bars.
The second indicator is the number of young men who are not part of the labor force. This is a statistic that gets very little attention. You never see on the evening news that the labor force participation rate has gone up or down by X amount. It's always the unemployment rate. I think this number is extremely important and you have to pay a lot of attention to it.
Being in the labor force means that you say to the government interviewer you would like to be working. You're available for work. The threshold for saying that is very low. You don't have to do anything to prove it. All you have to do is to tell the survey interviewer that's the way you feel about going to work.
There was a catastrophe among young black males when their labor force participation suddenly started to plummet in the 1960s. It had nothing to do with unemployment, because at that time there was very high employment in the United States. Anyway, the young black male labor force participation rate continued to drop, albeit more slowly, during the 1970s and 1980s but it was moving within a very narrow range.
We are seeing something bizarre happening right now. The proportion of black males ages 16 to 24 not in school and not in the labor force averaged about 17 percent during the 1980s. It first hit 20 percent in 1992. As of 1997 it stood at 23 percent. I don't know what the figures are for 1998 yet. I do know that there was some good news for the teenagers in that group. Their labor force participation rate went up slightly in 1998. But the rate for 20 to 24-year olds continued to go down.
We are talking about the hottest economy in American history. We are talking about a sustained boom. We are talking about a time when employers are going into the inner city and offering to provide transportation out to where the jobs are. And we are seeing a continued reduction in young black male participation in the labor force.
The story is also not very good for whites. The number not in the labor force is not nearly as large as it is for blacks, but it's been going up proportionately as well. What are we seeing here? My own interpretation is as follows:
Entering that population each year is a larger group that have grown up without an adult male, behaving like a grown-up, in their lives. By behaving as a grownup when you're an adult male, I mean taking care of your spouse and family, getting up every morning, going to work, behaving with sexual restraint with regard to your spouse, and all the other things that grownup males are supposed to do. You have a larger and larger number of kids who've never seen that
You don't get up one morning at 18 or 19 years old and naturally want to take a low-paying, menial job. You don't reach that age and naturally want to get up every morning and go to work. You do it because you have been raised that way. I think that what we're looking at is the effects of not having fathers play appropriate roles. That's a hypothesis.
But I will tell you what's not a hypothesis. When there are young males who are not in the labor force in these crucial years, they lose out on their chance to get on the kind of upward job ladder that they need to have a secure niche by the time they get into their 30’s. It’s a very serious problem. Nobody pays any attention to it.
Parenthetically, I will add that unemployment among young black males is still very high, but it has gone down. That's good. People who are in the labor force are doing better. Still, there is about 20 percent unemployment among black males who are teenagers or in their young 20’s. That's gotten better. But more people are not in the labor force.
Absentee fathers lead to the third of the indicators, illegitimacy. This is one issue where I think there has been a lot of smoke being blown recently, because I have a feeling that a lot of you in the room probably are under the impression that things are getting better. We've had lots of headlines saying that the teenage birthrate is down, especially the black teenage birthrate. It’s down for single teenagers too. And this is great stuff. Well, it's not great stuff in terms of what it means for any kind of social functioning.
There is a very important statistical distinction you've got to understand about illegitimacy. There’s a rate and a ratio. The rate is the number of children born out-of-wedlock per 1,000 women of a certain age. So if you're talking about the out-of- wedlock birthrate for teenagers rate, it's the number of illegitimate births per 1,000 unmarried teenage women. The ratio is the proportion of all children who are born to single women.
It is true that the rate has gone down for black teenagers. The rate for black teenagers went down almost without a break from 1960 through the early 1980s. But it didn't have anything to do with the ratio. The ratio continued to go up.
As of 1997, the year for which we have the most recent numbers, 69 percent of all black children were born out of wedlock. This is down from its peak of 70 percent. We have a catastrophic 69 percent instead of a catastrophic 70 percent. The fact that it's gone down one percentage point is meaningless.
Meanwhile, among whites, the illegitimacy ratio has continued to go up. Actually among whites the rate really hasn't come down very much at all either, but the ratio has continued to go up. You now have white illegitimacy ratios that are higher than the ones that Pat Moynihan was looking at when he talked about the breakdown of the black family. You have in white, low-income communities increasing evidence of all the kinds of social problems that go along with increased absence of fathers.
I take a look at all of that and say illegitimacy is a leading indicator. The problems that illegitimacy causes are the ones that present themselves when the baby is six months old. The problems happen five years later when the baby is a child going to kindergarten. They happen 15 years later when the child is now a teenager. And they happen 20 years later when the child is getting into the labor force.
We could have a major drop in illegitimacy, and it wouldn't make a whole lot of difference regarding the increasing social problems we're going to be facing because of the leading nature of the illegitimacy indicator. We're going to be looking at increasing problems well into the 21st century.
In sum, I'm saying to you that we know for certain that in terms of crime, the size of the underclass has increased. We know for certain that in terms of dropout from the labor force the underclass has increased. We know for certain that the illegitimacy problem is just about as bad as it's ever been, but it has leveled off. And we have some reason to think that maybe there's been some reduction in terms of chronic welfare dependency. That is not a positive picture. And we're talking about recent events.
Think back to the energy and the passion about the underclass during the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was busy shredding the social safety net. Every problem that excited that passion is worse now than it was then. There are children being brought up in horrible situations by parents who aren't prepared to be parents. There are ways in which they aren't getting a good start in life. Crime is better in the inner city as well as elsewhere. But except for that one indicator, there are hardly any indices that got us excited in the 1980s that haven't gotten worse now in terms of the reality of life in poor neighborhoods.
If we were so excited about eradicating the underclass in the 1980s, we aren't excited now? Here's my proposition. The reason we aren't worried about the underclass anymore is not because the underclass doesn't exist, but because we got it out of our face. The underclass impinged on the rest of us in three broad ways:
First there was busing, in which children from the wrong side of the tracks were brought into our schools. Busing is so far in our past that even the term has an archaic ring to it now. Busing disappeared.
The second way had to do with the kind of incivility of daily life that really grated at us. Whether it was homeless panhandling on the streets, whether it was the omnipresent graffiti, whether it was the squeegee men coming up and bothering us --well, you all know what I'm talking about. We mostly rid ourselves of those people who made us feel claustrophobic and nervous.
We’ve put the homeless into shelters and we've revamped vagrancy laws to keep most of them off the streets in most places. San Francisco, of course, is still San Francisco. But aside from that we've pretty much gotten the homeless out of our faces. We've learned how to deal with graffiti. Miracle cleaning substances and also some other tactics. We've dealt with a lot of those aspects of incivility.
The third huge way in which the underclass impinged on our lives was crime. We've gotten real good at dealing with that. It's not just that there are more people in jail; we've also developed better security devices. We have more gated communities. People have just moved to places that are safer. We’ve done well in dealing with the crime problem. We aren't worried about the underclass because they don't bother us anymore.
I looked at the list of people attending today, and it includes a great many who are doing the Lord's work. I say that without the slightest tinge of facetiousness. You are engaged in the central positive social action going on today. You are trying to tell people, “You can have an independent life. You can run your own life. You can make your own living. This is a better way to live than being on welfare.” Nothing I have said in this presentation is intended to discourage you. On the contrary, you represent the one great ray of hope.
However, let's be honest about what we're looking at. We are living right now in a period of unprecedented prosperity. Welfare reform has worked, not entirely, but in part because there are a lot of jobs out there. The good times are not going to last forever. There is going to be an economic downturn.
When that happens, there are going to be lots and lots of women who have gotten jobs who will lose them. As that happens, there will also be lots of calls in Congress for reinstating some version of the old system. People will worry about the fact that more women will be removed from their jobs, and the time limits will mean that they will be thrown into the streets. And at that time, just from the standpoint of welfare reform, you are going to have your plate full trying to retain a system which can continue to do the good work that is already underway.
But that's only the least of the changes that will occur at that point, and here's where my crystal ball is very cloudy indeed. What happens if crime starts to go up again? What happens if the white underclass explodes in size as it may threaten to do? It seems to me that we may accept what I have called custodial democracy.
Custodial democracy, a term I introduced in 1988 or 1989, refers to the notion that the United States is increasingly trying to maintain the system we think of as the American system. At the same time, the country says there is a large chunk of the population that cannot be expected to act as responsible citizens, so we will take care of them. We will take care of them in some cases by incarcerating them. We will take care of them in other cases by providing them with support. We have become increasingly intrusive in that support by the way, becoming more and more controlling.
I think the latent impulse to return to a form of custodial democracy is real. I get the sense that when the times turn bad, when the problems become more intrusive again, that that will be the solution of least resistance. Exactly what forms it might take I do not know. I have used the analogy of an Indian reservation. We spend lots of money on Indian reservations, per Indian. They are also absolutely dreadful places to live. But we don't worry about them very much because they too are out of sight, and in that case too we can say, well, at least we're spending a lot of money on them.
My feeling is that when times get bad again, those of us with lots of money in this country will be willing to spend it to create a situation in which life may be dreadful in these neighborhoods, but gee, we’re trying hard. We are at least spending a lot of money on this issue. And anyway, they're out of sight and out of mind.
I don't think that the United States can function that way for very long. I think we can continue to have a growing economy. I think we can continue to have international military power. I think we can do all the things that a great nation does, but it will cost us our idea of America. The whole point of America is that people are both free to run their own lives and responsible for running their own lives.
This is the gloomy future I see as a possibility. Like all gloomy futures, it probably won't happen. But I think that, at this moment, when the news has been so generally good, and we have been so ready to see all the ways in which these problems aren't really problems anymore, there is occasionally some usefulness in being reminded that they are still out there. Thanks very much.
Mr. OLSEN: We’ll take questions.
QUESTION: I'm Julia Dean, Washington Times. I have two questions. First, you gave the black illegitimacy rate. Could you give the white one?
DR. MURRAY: Yes, 26 percent. That’s for for all whites. For non-Hispanic whites it's 22 percent.
QUESTION: Okay. The second question is, in your last sentence you said, “I don't think the United States can function that way very long.” In other words, it might turn into this quasi-police state. But what would you suggest? What's your alternative? I mean, what would you do if you were Bill Clinton?
DR. MURRAY: Let's not put it that way. You know the problem posed by the underclass is difficult precisely because it demands that we think about what this country is supposed to be like. We are looking not just at a situation in which in which we will be supporting people at a bare minimum, if we decide to use the custodial solution. We can afford to support people quite generously. We are in a situation now where wealth is such that we could actually, as far as I can tell, provide a cash income that would be above the poverty line for everybody in the country, if we were to convert a lot of the current programs into cash benefits. So we have a lot of money. We can wipe out poverty in a stroke. We can do all sorts of things. The question is, is that really what we want for people?
My own view, which is probably best expressed in the book, In Pursuit, is that we have to think harder about what constitutes living a satisfying life. And in living a satisfying life we have to go back to questions of how is it that you end up with vital families and vital communities. The reason why you want social peace, is because that's the way that most people live satisfying lives. And you do that in my view by moving the government out of a lot of the social welfare business, lock, stock and barrel.
Going through the arguments about why I think that would work and why I think that's a good thing would take far more time than I'm going to give to it. But I'm suggesting to you that when you think about why custodial democracy is a bad thing, it's not because we’re going to have a police state in any ordinary sense of that term; the custodial state would take care of people. The question you have to ask yourself is well, gee, if we're taking care of people generously, is that so bad after all? It's an interesting question.
Mr. OLSEN: Yes, over here?
QUESTION: Your observation that when bad times come there's going to be a significant effort to take us back to the old system is accurate. But I would urge everybody in this room to put us in a position where that won't happen. I say that because when the real jobs disappear, during a recession or a depression, there still will be plenty of work to be done in the communities. If we prepare for that by having good workfare programs as well as moving people into regular jobs, then there won't be this problem.
The money that the states are saving now can be set aside and used during the bad times to pay work performed in the community.
Dr. MURRAY: Something else that should be emphasized is not just how much money the state has been saving on welfare, but all the people on caseloads who are living much more satisfying lives than they were before. You see some of that in the newspapers now. You see sort of half-and-half.
They will still tell the story about the woman who's struggling terribly and it's much worse than it was before. They will also tell about the woman who's life has really turned around because she is now living differently.” That kind of story has to get out more and more, because that's the appropriate justification for maintaining welfare reform even when bad times come. That it's better for the people we're trying to help.
QUESTION: I'm from Florida. I'm Phyllis Busansky, the Director of the State WAGES Program -- Work and Gain Economic Self-sufficiency. It's an independent board set up by the state legislature. We oversee 24 citizen coalitions throughout the State of Florida.
We just did a major study of 5,000 recipients who left the welfare rolls voluntarily. Some were sanctioned. Seventy-five percent of the people who left said that they either did much better, a little bit better or as well as living on welfare. Now that's significant. And so I just wanted to tell that part of the story.
Dr. MURRAY: That has to get out.
QUESTION: Dr. Murray, in your talk today you emphasized the underclass and particularly young black males. For the past 20 years enormous resources have been directed toward that population through government entitlements, foundations, school programs, youth programs, non-profits and government agencies. We've poured tremendous resources into that area, and you seem to be suggesting it's all for naught. Are you then implying that there other structural changes such as bringing back marriage, bringing back two-parent families, having a much greater church role -- are these the avenues we should be taking to revitalize inner cities and do something much more constructive with inner-city youths, particularly young black males?
DR. MURRAY: Yes. I don't think there's a choice. We have had a lot of experience, and I think there's consensus in this area among social scientists of different political stripes than you may realize. We know an awful lot about what we get out of certain kinds of government interventions, and especially for young males, black or white. And the answer is, not much. We know a lot more than we knew even ten or 15 years ago about the consequences of living in communities where you don't have adult males playing the kinds of roles they should play. And we know that that is a disaster.
I was asked earlier, why do I want to get rid of so much government? I think the only way you revitalize marriage is by filling it up again with all the responsibilities that it formerly had, and again giving males the crucial role that they used to have in supporting of families. And I don't think you do that by passing laws saying that males have to support their families. You do that by making it the reality that two people have to be involved in raising a child, and one of them better be male and one of them better have a job, otherwise, raising children is an impossibility.
I think that's the only route. What scares me is finding the constituency for the kinds of really radical reforms that will be necessary to revitalize marriage. I don't see that constituency out there. And I also don't see any signs of a natural regeneration of the roles of men within low-income communities -- and let me emphasize, I'm talking about low-income white communities as well.
I am a young man. I am working at a low-paying job and the truth is that whether I continue to work at that job or not makes an insignificant difference to the welfare of my children. I have little incentive to be engaged with my children, or for that matter with that job. Until we change that reality I don't think we're going to change behavior.
Mr. OLSEN: We have time for one more question.
QUESTION: Coincidentally with the decline in the family that you've talked about, there's also been a real flight of wealth from the cities. The model that we have for families in which the male is a primary breadwinner has become increasingly less realistic. You can see it in Philadelphia where I’m from; we have a lovely chart that shows where the manufacturing went from 1970 to 1990. Once, those plants were all in the city. Now, they are in the farthest rings of the suburbs that are virtually impossible to get to through public transportation.
What you're talking about here is a radical effort to revitalize the family and marriage. Would you recommend devoting some resources and attention to create incentives for some type of economic development in places where the poverty is? Would this enable males to engage in that primary bread-winning function and help families?
Dr. MURRAY: Previously, geography was not considered a barrier. People moved to where the jobs were. Given the economy we've had during the last five years, I think it’s harder to make the case that this 20 percent of young black males, and the roughly 10 percent of young white males who are not even in the labor force, just don't have options. I just don't think that's true.
These last five years of economic boom should be regarded as an experiment. What we’ve experienced should discredit the idea that we have these problems with labor force dropout because there are no jobs. It makes the question more urgent. If this is what we have after five years of a robust expanding economy, we can be absolutely sure that we have looked at the best case in terms of dealing with this situation through economic growth.
Then the question becomes what's wrong with this picture? Why are there so many males not availing themselves of the opportunities that are out there?
Mr.OLSEN: Thank you, Dr. Murray.