Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Census Bureau Gives Up on Black Marriage

The exciting headline in the New York Times is "Two-Parent Black Families Showing Gains." The percent of black kids living with two parents leaped up from an abysmal 35% in 2004 to a somewhat less abysmal 39.5% in 2007. This is a surprising -- nay, improbably large -- gain in so short a time. The comparable white figure is 77%.

Now, I think there probably is a small but very encouraging uptick in the middle-class black kids living with their married parents. Call this the Obama end of the spectrum.

But this big improvement is, alas, partly a statistical trick. In 2007, the Census Bureau decided to call "parents" any man or woman they lived with. The Bureau stopped counting whether the couple was married or not or even whether they were the biological parents of the child. This change fudges the numbers of kids with married parents for all groups. It is particularly bad for African American kids, though, because they are most likely to live with unmarried parents.

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