Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Black Fathers in Contemporary American Society

Black Fathers in Contemporary American Society: Strengths, Weaknesses, and Strategies for Change

Obie Clayton
Ronald B. Mincy
David Blankenhorn
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 196
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Black Fathers in Contemporary American Society
    Book Description:

    The majority of African American children live in homes without their fathers, but the proportion of African American children living in intact, two-parent families has risen significantly since 1995. Black Fathers in Contemporary American Society looks at father absence from two sides, offering an in-depth analysis of how the absence of African American fathers affects their children, their relationships, and society as a whole, while countering the notion that father absence and family fragmentation within the African American community is inevitable. Editors Obie Clayton, Ronald B. Mincy, and David Blankenhorn lead a diverse group of contributors encompassing a range of disciplines and ideological perspectives who all agree that father absence among black families is one of the most pressing social problems today. In part I, the contributors offer possible explanations for the decline in marriage among African American families. William Julius Wilson believes that many men who live in the inner city no longer consider marriage an option because their limited economic prospects do not enable them to provide for a family. Part II considers marriage from an economic perspective, emphasizing that it is in part a wealth-producing institution. Maggie Gallagher points out that married people earn, invest, and save more than single people, and that when marriage rates are low in a community, it is the children who suffer most. In part III, the contributors discuss policies to reduce absentee fatherhood. Wornie Reed demonstrates how public health interventions, such as personal development workshops and work-related skill-building services, can be used to address the causes of fatherlessness. Wade Horn illustrates the positive results achieved by fatherhood programs, especially when held early in a man's life. In the last chapter, Enola Aird notes that from 1995 to 2000, the proportion of African American children living in two-parent, married couple homes rose from 34.8 to 38.9 percent; a significant increase indicating the possible reversal of the long-term shift toward black family fragmentation. Black Fathers in Contemporary American Society provides an in-depth look at a problem affecting millions of children while offering proof that the trend of father absence is not irrevocable.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-127-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Lawrence D. Bobo

    The family is arguably the core institution of human social existence. For this reason, those interested in understanding the conditions, status, and prospects of any ethnic-racial group typically make the family a central topic of concern. Social scientific efforts to assess the circumstances of African Americans have long focused a close analytical eye on the black family. A large and varied literature has developed through the years, spanning major scholarly treatises, policy papers, and other analyses, as well as bitter polemics and baneful jeremiads. But as economic structures, social policies, and social norms continue to change, we will need even...

    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Obie Clayton, Ronald B. Mincy and David Blankenhorn
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    In November of 1998, Morehouse College and the Institute for American values convened a conference on the state of African American fathers. Presenters at that conference included William Julius Wilson, Steven Nock, Glenn Loury, Elijah Anderson, and Ron Mincy, to name but a few. All of these scholars have done research in the area of the African American family and their work is highly respected both within the academy and among the general public. One statement that stood out particularly strongly was made by William Raspberry, the Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist, when he pondered aloud the question we had asked...


    • Chapter 1 The Woes of the Inner-City African American Father
      (pp. 9-29)

      Today, one quarter of all families and six of every ten black families are lone-parent families, and most of these lone parents are never-married mothers. One half of all marriages end in divorce and only one half of divorced fathers make the payments that they owe by law to support their children. If current trends continue, one half of the children in the United States will experience at least part of their childhoods in lone-parent families (Luker 1998).

      The decline of the married-parent family is a controversial topic, one that has been featured in political debates about “family values.” According to...

    • Chapter 2 Marriage and Fatherhood in the Lives of African American Men
      (pp. 30-42)

      Marriage and fatherhood are important aspects of most men’s lives, and they typically lead to predictable changes, especially when the two occur together. For example, research on fatherhood outside of marriage found that it has many of the same consequences for men five to ten years later in their lives that motherhood outside of marriage has for women. Men who become fathers outside of marriage go on to have lower incomes, less education, work fewer weeks per year, and have higher rates of poverty (Lerman and Ooms 1993; Moore 1995; Nock 1998a). Since unmarried men do not typically live with...


    • Chapter 3 The Marriage Mystery: Marriage, Assets, and the Expectations of African American Families
      (pp. 45-70)

      Many people have noted that the out-of-wedlock birth rate of African Americans, 70 percent, is much higher than the rates for whites and Latinos (20 percent and 40 percent, respectively). This difference is so great that some—including some contributors to this volume—ask whether black fathers are necessary. In many cases, low-income black fathers themselves behave as if they did not believe they were necessary (Anderson 1999; Sullivan 1985, 1993). Such feelings seem to be less prevalent among their low-income white and Hispanic peers. In explaining high unwed birth rates within the African American community, some black fathers tell...

    • Chapter 4 The Marriage Gap: How and Why Marriage Creates Wealth and Boosts the Well-Being of Adults
      (pp. 71-83)

      For understandable reasons, the marriage debate in this country has concentrated on the welfare of children. When mothers and fathers do not get and stay married, children are at increased risk for a whole host of problems and disorders: mental and physical illness, crime and delinquency, school failure, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy. Two decades of research has made clear that, as more than a hundred scholars and community leaders who signed a document titled “The Marriage Movement: A Statement of Principles” in the summer of 2000 put it, “Children do better, on average, when they are raised by their...

    • Chapter 5 The Effects of Crime and Imprisonment on Family Formation
      (pp. 84-102)

      Marriage and marriage rates are affected by many social, economic, and demographic variables. Demographers place a great deal of emphasis on sex ratios and look for imbalances. Sociologists and economists argue that marriage is more than a mathematical model and is affected by employment, education, earnings, uncertain job prospects, military service, imprisonment, and other related factors (Farley 1991; Tucker and Taylor 1989; Glick 1976). However, all social scientists will agree that some individuals are more marriageable than others and certain variables have more explanatory power than others. In our opinion, although researchers have pointed out with a high degree of...


    • Chapter 6 Building a Fatherhood Movement in South Carolina
      (pp. 105-124)

      This chapter describes the efforts made in South Carolina to place the issue of father absence and its relationship to poverty on the social agenda. It delineates the key role played by a faith-based philanthropy in spearheading this effort through a strategic partnership with the academic community and the people of South Carolina. It describes and proposes an approach to strategic grant making that not only has special relevance for father engagement activities but that also can serve as a model for addressing many different types of human needs.

      The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina decided to make...

    • Chapter 7 Fatherlessness in African American Families: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Prevention
      (pp. 125-137)

      The increasing rate of father absence in the homes of many African American children presents numerous challenges. It may be instructive to examine the different approaches that are used to address this issue. I will use a public health model to examine the problematic nature of the ways many programs approach the issue of African American fathers and families—specifically, how the public health intervention-prevention framework is used to analyze various approaches to address “fatherlessness” and the potential successes and failures of some of these approaches. This analysis is informed by my experience as an evaluator for some of these...

    • Chapter 8 Is It Working? Early Evaluations of Fatherhood-Renewal Programs
      (pp. 138-152)
      WADE F. HORN

      There is a new consensus that fathers matter to the well-being of their children. Research consistently finds that, even after income and other sociodemographic variables have been controlled for, children who grow up with the active involvement of a responsible father are less likely to fail at school, develop behavioral and emotional problems, get into trouble with the law, engage in early and promiscuous sexual activity, or become welfare-dependent later in life than those who do not have such a father (for a review of this literature see Horn 1999). The question no longer is whether father involvement matters, but...

    • Chapter 9 Making the Wounded Whole: Marriage as Civil Right and Civic Responsibility
      (pp. 153-164)

      These are true stories about children I know—four of the real children behind one of the most alarming statistics about the African American community: In spite of some recent encouraging news as noted by the editors of this volume, the fact is that a majority of African American children are born to unmarried mothers and fathers. These stories are illustrative of one of the major challenges confronting the black community.

      In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the psychologist Kenneth Clark and his colleagues amassed considerable evidence demonstrating that black children were being harmed by this country’s system of...

  10. Conclusions
    (pp. 165-170)

    In the summer of 2001, a series of independent reports based largely on new data from the 2000 Census, all pointed toward a remarkable social and demographic fact. After at least four decades of steadily getting weaker, the black family today seems to be getting stronger.

    Paralleling positive developments in family structure, white America may currently be poised to follow black America when it comes to the turnaround in family structure. The proportion of all U.S. families with children under age eighteen that are headed by married couples reached an all-time low in the mid-1990s—about 72.9 percent in 1996...

  11. INDEX
    (pp. 171-180)