This is a great response to the claim among 'woke antiracists' that 'white supremacy is baked into everything'. I see a *lot* of similarities between black people needing to change how they comport their lives and women who claim 'patriarchy' is baked into everything and holding them back. Asians are *clearly* doing way better than the rest of us despite all that 'white supremacy' stuff, to the point where they may be getting 'whitened' by certain antiracists who assume if they're doing better, it must be because they're really white. When you're as obsessed with skin colour as a Klansman you limit yourself every bit as much as Bubba McCracker.

I agree with what John McWhorter said a week or so ago about Jews: At least some of the anti-Semitism comes from jealousy. How is it they're so good at making money? Because they had to be, living for thousands of years with others who hated them discriminated against them, and wouldn't let them have jobs. So they went into finance, started their own businesses, and learned how to be successful.

Rather than admit to themselves that Jews tend to be more successful because of a lot of cultural history that taught them highly valuable skills they passed on to succeeding generations, non-Jews invent stories about how they're running the world and only look after their own (which they do, but so does every other 'tribe' on the planet).

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I disagree with assumptions about racial constructs. Why should we assume that all races should have equal profiles? Different races do not share similar attitudes and cultural values. Since these differ, why would we assume that the measures of social and economic indices would be equal? We certainly do not believe individuals share common skill-sets, attitudes, and aptitudes. Why should we assume that there should be "more" equality when so many folks differ in so many ways?

Consider differences in attitudes -- (Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation

by Stuart Buck.) Or, consider the issue of discipline and self-discipline. There are major differences between groups, so why should we assume outcomes should be "equal"?

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Thanks for your comment. One of the points I tried to make at the beginning of my essay is that inequality is more a function of family structures and education levels than race.

A certain amount of inequality is inherent in a free market economy. Edward Conard, a founding partner of Bain Capital, made this point in his 2016 book, "The Upside of Inequality: How Good Intentions Undermine the Middle Class." Not everybody agrees with him and that's the rub. Even those who agree with Conard may wonder how much inequality is "reasonable" and whether it can be shared equally across all groups. Should we be concerned that the work of Anne Case and Angus Deaton shows that college graduates live 8.5 years longer than their peers without degrees? If so, what should we do about it? Should we be concerned that 40% of America's babies are born to single mothers given what we know about the downsides of single-parenting and its impact on children? If so, what should we do about it? Should we be concerned that a 2019 analysis from Pew Research shows that America has a higher percentage of families headed by single parents than almost any country in the world?


If so, what should we do about it?

These are tough questions that transcend race. Having a large, permanent group of disadvantaged people will lead to more internal strife, put more pressure on the government to expand the social safety net, and hurt America's competitive position in the global economy. Ignoring these issues allows them to fester, so what should we do about them? We can't mandate equal outcomes in a free market economy. Some will do well and some won't for the reasons you mentioned. Promoting economic mobility by ensuring that the playing field is level and showing people pathways to achieving equality and/or their version of the American Dream would reduce resentment and boost prosperity.

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One other thought about agency. Do you believe that many of the good books in poor school district libraries have become dog-eared from over-use? How many victims "underserve" themselves by ignoring pathways to a better tomorrow?

If you're on a mission to reform the behavior of single-mothers so that their children don't continue the culture, more power to you. To those whom I have tried to help, I received no small compliment. They "schooled-me" about their true character. I accepted their point of view.

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Tough questions? No, I think not. Why? Why should we worry about different outcomes, unless of course they are products of some ugly form of discrimination like a race-based qualification for service or admission.

Look, I retired at 55 on a small pension. Great decision, or a silly one? At the time, I could not know, but I took a chance. Now, twenty years later, I firmly believe it was among the best decisions I have ever made, my lower-class income, notwithstanding. Another individual -- say Warren Buffett, or Jimmy Cramer -- look at life in a different manner. They continue to work and seemingly discount free time. Why? Why do they continue their slavery to market actions and investments? I do not know. Of course, not for me, but I'll note, in this comparison, there is no issue of race, class, ethnicity, religion, or even geography. Point is, differences in life stations can arise for a host of reasons, totally divorced from the assumption that we should strive for equality or equity. That Cramer and Buffett disagree with me is fine. I feel no moral imperative to 'educate' them that the first principle of economics is "scarcity." They answer by using their time in a way that I do not. I fail to see the moral imperative for everyone to use free will for the same objective.

Finally, I will also note that I have yet to write a book. Does that imply or suggest I have nothing to say? Thanks for your contribution.

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Thanks for your comment. We're mostly in agreement. We may differ when it comes to our levels of concern about the resentment and dysfunctional politics that various forms of inequality have catalyzed. I don''t resent or envy Buffett and his wealth because I think he came by it honestly and that his success didn't come at my expense. Nor do I envy the wealth of others such as Bezos, Musk, or Zuckerberg. There are others, however, who believe that nobody should be able to amass so much wealth. Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, said during the 2016 Democratic debates that billionaires shouldn't exist:


I think he's wrong and that the politics of resentment are harmful. They exacerbate divisions within the country and lead to bad policy ideas. My hope is that fact-based arguments that show outcomes are more the result of the choices we make than the predetermined outcomes from a stacked deck will help move our politics in a better direction.

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Agree. I don't resent Cramer's wealth...nor that of Buffett. What I tried to make clear was that I feel richer than both of them.....richer in the sense that I would never spend my "scarce time" before death, chasing even more dollars. That they waste their time chasing more money seems both shallow without meaningful marginal gain or achievement. Thus, I have no interest in doing something to attain their level of wealth.

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Fascinating info as always, Mr. Roscoe. Having said that, I notice that all such discussions are limited to the same small number of criteria. I can think of at least 20 additional criteria that may be germane to the discussion but are never mentioned. One example:

I noticed years ago that so many black and latina women were in college that had previously dropped out of school, after bearing two or three kids (often with multiple fathers) they earned GEDs then enrolled in college (where they had to spend at least a semester or two in "remedial classes" before getting up to speed for actual college level work. I doubt that these women had as much of a chance to learn what they needed as someone who went from high school straight to college, and skip motherhood.

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Thanks for your comment. I agree that lots of factors impact outcomes. I can't speak for social scientists, but I think they tend to focus on a handful of variables because they've learned which things impact outcomes the most and because good data is available for those things. Researchers like Raj Chetty are starting to look at a broader set of variables. Here's a link to the Opportunity Insights project he leads at Harvard:


Here's a Brookings piece that highlights their work on friendship and economic mobility:


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You are a national treasure

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Nov 14, 2023Liked by Glenn Loury

Thanks for the very kind words. I really appreciate them. I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge Mark Sussman's fine work as an editor and Glenn Loury's willingness to indulge my prattles.

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So, the answer is as simple as safe sex and education and god/ morality. Didn’t we already know this 5000 years ago.

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Very interesting.

Glenn- what do you think could be done to target demographics for economic development? It seems we continually throw money at these problems with little result.

Oversight tends to be local. That lends itself to the continuing problem local systemic problems. Some of them being lack of actual authority, corruption, lack of expertise.... etc.

Would outside control help?

Could you take a group of economists, such as yourself and others, and have a panel that controls resources in a way to make sure that they are being used with a plan? The ability to hire (and fire) various local power brokers? Do it in small areas, such as a specific neighborhood, then expand. Grow the ink dots, so to speak?

Try to find a model that is flexible but works?

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Nov 13, 2023·edited Nov 13, 2023

Teach those young ladies to keep their knickers on till they graduate. Maybe send boys and girls to same sex schools. Gay people would love this. Then let the breeders mate at coeed summer sexeducation camps run my the ywca. It would be like Woodstock minus the brown acid.

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I’m not a data scientist BUT it looks like there was already a significant rise in the non-marital birth rate in the ten-year period starting in 1960 and it appears that the trend after 1970 was simply a continuation of that earlier trend. So, while the decline in the prevalence of shotgun marriages may have started a significant decline around 1970, it seems that is far from being the dominant cause in the rise of non-marital birth rates. Some other factor(s) was already at play long before 1970. Am I missing something?

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Thanks for your comment. Akerlof and Yellen suggested that the rising availability of abortions and contraceptives helped fuel the rise in non-marital births. Here's an excerpt from their analysis:


In the late 1960s and very early 1970s (well before Roe v. Wade in January 1973) many major states, including New York and California, liberalized their abortion laws. At about the same time it became easier for unmarried people to obtain contraceptives. In July 1970 the Massachusetts law prohibiting the distribution of contraceptives to unmarried people was declared unconstitutional. We have found that this rather sudden increase in the availability of both abortion and contraception we call it a reproductive technology shock is deeply implicated in the increase in out-of-wedlock births. Although many observers expected liberalized abortion and contraception to lead to fewer out-of-wedlock births, in fact the opposite happened because of the erosion in the custom of “shotgun marriages.”

To make a long story short, there's a complicated backstory behind the rise in non-marital births.

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Thank you for your notes. My apologies for my ignorance about this, so I appreciate your response. I can see how the effect a reduction in the prevalence of shotgun marriages might have on non-marital birth rates. But if that reduction only started to gain momentum around 1970, what explains the ~50% increase in black non-marital birth rates between 1960 and 1970 — and how much of that increase was caused by a factor(s) that continued after 1970? It seems counterintuitive that a liberalization of abortion rights and an increase in contraception availability would result in more non-marital birth rates. How might more abortions and more contraception result in more non-marital births? Is it because those reproduction technologies were used mostly by married couples and not by unmarried couples? That would logically explain an increase in the non-marital birth rate. But it would raise another question: Why would non-married couples not be taking advantage of reproduction technologies at the same rate as married couples? Also, there is no mention of government support programs for single moms. One disincentive for having a non-marital birth would be the financial burden that would place on a woman. If that financial burden was eased through government financial support, might that also be a reason why non-marital birth rates have increased? Sorry for all of the questions.

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Black communities remain the most segregated group in the United States.


According to Andrew Hacker, in "Two Nations: Black & White, Hostile, and Unequal"; most whites fantasize about America being a country without blacks.

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Nah, most whites don't fantasize about blacks at all. You said it yourself- blacks are segregated away from whites so we whites are already living and working in places where we seldom see blacks so there's nothing to fantasize about.

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You must live in Vermont, which is the whitest state in the United States. I live in diverse Georgia and had many whites on my prison caseload while employed by the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation.

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Individuals can live in a diverse state within an area or small town that isn't diverse.

In CA the imprisonment rate for black men is 4,236 per 100,000- ten times the imprisonment rate for white men which is 422 per 100,000. For serious felonies- because the white general population is 5 times the black population- there are roughly equal amounts of black and white prisoners. And it's possible that your prison because of its location or other factors may have had a different proportion of white to black prisoners.

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I don’t think whites “fantasize” about that. What I do think is that we have become increasingly disconnected from people who are different than us (whoever “us” may be). Wealthier people do not regularly interact with poorer people. Highly educated people do not regularly interact with poorly-educated people. Urbanites rarely interact with people in rural America. Races rarely interact with other races — at a deep, personal level (and this has little to do with racism). This has been happening through geographic separation for a fairly long time — and that separation has been exacerbated by the Internet where people can — and I think naturally do — gravitate towards interacting with people who think, believe, and act very much like themselves.

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Okay, Roscoe, I’ve read the actual information at the link you supplied. That answers a lot of the questions I just raised.

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Now, after reading that information, here are my summary thoughts: Essentially, the cultural norm of marriage following an unplanned pregnancy (“shotgun marriages”) faded with the increased access to abortions and availability of contraception. As a result, women in general, but also the women without ready access to abortions and contraception, were less willing to withhold sex in non-marital relationships. But because access to abortions and contraception was not uniformly available, those women without that access then saw a rise in non-marital birth rates. BUT, this does not explain the significant increase in non-marital birth rates between 1960 and 1970 nor does it explain the continued increase in non-marital birth rates for several decades after 1970, during which time access to abortions and to contraception was likely much more uniformly available.

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I should have added that the Wikipedia source I referenced included perspectives about why black non-marital birth rates rose:


Almost all of these perspectives have merit, but I'm not sure any of them fully explain what happened.

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Thanks for your reply. I appreciate your interest. I am way out of my depth on this topic. Akerlof and Yellen explored some of the issues you raised in their analysis. It's worth a read if you want a better understanding of what happened.

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Excellent piece. Validates what Sowell wrote about years ago in his book Wealth, Poverty and Politics.

Couple of comments…until someone or some organization steps up and shows leadership to talk about the importance of education and family on a national and consistent scale, this dynamic will not change in a material manner. The battle will be uphill as the msm and far let refuse to acknowledge the facts. Case in point…the book referenced here where a two parent family is considered a “ privilege”. What family anyone is borne into is beyond their control. However, the left has co opted the word “ privilege”. Privilege my friends, is achievement compounded. Your parents and their parents etc made overall good decisions that got a family to any success. As noted here, Asian parents are ahead of the pack. This goes back to when the first Asian immigrants arrived here with nothing and they realized for their kids to do better, education and family were the keys. Paid off. The msm media never brings up the success of Asian Americans, or the millions of successful black Americans. Add in the mix politicians and teachers unions that are more concerned with staying in power vs the kids education, and the problem gets worse. I’ll wrap up with a question for all to ponder…what if BLM focused on driving the “success sequence” and the importance of family and education into communities vs gender and defund the police issues?

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I purchased and am reading “the Two Parent Privilege “. Two comments on it and the subject of family structure. First, it is not just the two parent structure that supports children and family fortune. It is also the 4 grandparent support to that 2 parent family and the generational wealth and support which gets passed down. When the extended family is also two parent strong it is a support that can withstand a lot of pressure. Secondly and maybe related. When I used the phrase of “two parent privilege” with my sister she did not like the phrase. She said it is a right not a privilege for a child to have two parents. I have thought about this and I think I agree with her

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Thanks, Roscoe, for the very interesting and well-reserached article. And thanks, Glenn, for sharing the stage with Roscoe. I share the bottom line that family structure, the "success" strategy," a focus on education, etc., are fundamentally important for all Americans. But those who only see the world in terms of white oppression will simply look at the statistics and say, "That's right. And why are the family structures in the black community so out of whack with what seems to succeed? White supremacy, of course." Asian American success will be dismissed as irrelevant because, the argument will go, white Americans don't feel threatened by them, whether because of historical reasons, because white Americans can't focus on anything beyond anti-black racism, or because there just aren't (yet) enough asian Americans to feel trhreatening. While I think then woke answer is essentially circular, it does raise the critical questions of why? Why did black family structure fracture so much in the last 50 years? Why have most but not all whites and even more asian Americans managed (so far) to avoid those problems? What have the many black Americans who have managed to follow the success formula done right and why were they able to do so? How can their success be replicated (channeling Robert Woodson here, I know)?

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There is no reason poor people have to go to ineffective schools except government policy. Keep them ignorant poor and dependent on politicians

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You're not discussing a problem, you're talking about a dilemma.

This is as good as it gets without holding the individual responsible for their own actions.

Social scientist will get paid to make excuses for their lack of success, while everyone else just passes them by.

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Clifton, interesting as always. My two cents, I grew up comfortably middle class until my parents divorced. After that, my dad struggled more than he would have liked because of child support and I grew up basically in poverty because my mom (with a college degree) couldn’t find a well paid position for most of my childhood. My elementary school was filled with single mothers, the recently divorced, recent immigrants/refugees, and low-income blue collar workers. Long way of saying, in my opinion the future lies in teaching kids to make better choices than their parents but the need now is to get the kids in poverty the tools (nutritional, emotional, psychological, and educational) that they probably aren’t getting at home.

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Thanks Amy! I agree with you that we should do what we can to help single mothers. That's why I included a link to Robert Cherry's recent essay.

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Interesting but not surprising. Also self perpetuating if poor single mothers are forced to send there children to schools that have neither the ability nor the intention of educating them. In the case of Black children this is structural racism.

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Wouldn’t that more accurately described as structural poverty?

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One ironic stat in the "equity" conversation is that Black women are the most educated group... How does that reality fit into these observations/outcomes? Are the educated Black women following the success sequence? Are they just not having children at all? Is the negative group effect of not following the success sequence more attributable to the cultural aspects of race+class for lower-income single moms?

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Thanks for the correction, y'all! Seems like there were quite a few general sites that used the NCES 2020 data to support the assertion about Black women being the most educated group overall (not what it actually said, which was they have the highest within group rates compared to their male counterparts, I think).

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Thanks for your comment. Black women are not the most educated group as of 2022, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Here's a link that provides a detailed breakdown of educational attainment by race and gender for those 25 and over:


Here are the percentages of people, 25 and over, with a bachelor's degree or higher by race and gender:

Asian females - 57.8%

Asian males - 62.9%

Black females - 30.4%

Black males - 25.0%

Hispanic females - 22.9%

Hispanic males - 18.9%

White females - 43.0%

White males - 40.6%

All females - 39.0%

All males - 36.2%

Melissa Kearney's work suggests that women without college degrees are more likely to have children outside marriage than those with college degrees. Here's a link to a discussion she had about this with Jim Tankersley of the NY Times before an audience at Brookings back in September:


Just before the 15-minute mark she discusses the characteristics of "unpartnered" mothers.


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How can this be when women make up about 60% of higher education students?

Must be the effects of previous generations.

A breakdown graphed by age would be very interesting.

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Thanks for your comment. The St. Louis Fed published a piece last year ("Why Do Women Outnumber Men in College Enrollment?") that includes a graphic that shows the ratio of female to male college students since 1970. I don't know how to cut and paste it into this thread, but you can access it using this link:


The graph shows that there were about 0.75 females enrolled on the campuses of four-year colleges for every male back in 1970. The ratio reached 1.0 during the early 1980's and was about 1.25 in 2019.

The NCES source I referenced includes data on the percentages of people with a college degree, 25 and over, going back to 1910. Gender breakouts aren't available until 1940. Data for Hispanics by gender isn't available until 1980. Data for Asians isn't available until 2003.

Here are the percentages, by race and gender, as of 1980:

Black females - 8.1%

Black males - 7.7%

Hispanic females - 6.2%

Hispanic males - 9.2%

White females - 14.4%

White males - 22.7%

All females - 13.6%

All males - 20.9%

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I don’t think it’s true that black women are the most educated group. I think what you might be thinking of is “Among Black students in higher education, women are more likely than men to earn degrees: Black women get 64.1% of bachelor’s degrees, 71.5% of master’s degrees and 65.9%of doctoral, medical, and dental degrees”. However, “The number of white women (39%) getting an associate or bachelor’s degree by the age of 29 is nearly twice as high as for Black women (21%) and Latinas (20%).” From https://www.aauw.org/resources/article/fast-facts-woc-higher-ed/

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