Murray speaks of new white underclass

by Paul Hung | 5/20/94 5:00am

Welfare expert and author Charles Murray warned about how widespread illegitimacy has led to an emerging white underclass which will have dire social implications.

Murray, who is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank, spoke to about 50 people in 105 Dartmouth Hall last night in a speech postponed from Winter Term.

Citing statistics from 1991, Murray said 22 percent of all white births are out of wedlock. When a comparable percentage for the black population was found back in the 1960s, people used it to warn about the breakdown of the black family.

Illegitimacy is connected with social class, Murray said. While the illegitimacy rate for white women above the poverty line is only six percent, it is 44 percent for those below the poverty line, he said.

Murray submitted three arguments upon which he said most liberal and conservative experts agree: single parent families do not work well, "very high proportions of unmarried mothers are rotten mothers," and social programs are largely ineffective.

He stressed the importance of a father figure to socialize children about the work habits and sexual behavior of a self-restrained adult. Specifically, this absence of adult male role models, or even just the memory of a deceased one, means boys during puberty cannot re-channel their urges to do dangerous things, he said.

He said research supports the fact that children are often ignored by immature single mothers who are at home but treat their children as objects.

The two parent family is a fundamental building block of society that has been undermined in the last 20 years, Murray said.

Murray criticized government programs that only provide monetary support for single mothers.

He said research has shown that the average program of social intervention does not offer any statisitically significant improvement over control groups who receive no assistance. Even really well-run programs only produce something on the order of six percent better results, he said.

An emerging white underclass will have even greater impact for society than the current minority underclasses, Murray said, because whites make up 80 percent of the population. He fears the prospect of white inner-cities five to ten years from now.

Murray said there are no moderate ways to solve the problem. In the national press, he has called for getting rid of the welfare program completely. If people were told that in nine months and one day from today there will be no more welfare, "intense discussion" will lead to a condemnation of illegitimacy, he said.

More generally, Murray calls for not using government to subsidize social behaviors or address problems that can be better solved by people themselves at the community level.

Murray's speech was sponsored by the Ernest Martin Hopkins Institute and the Dartmouth Speakers Union, both conservative campus organizations.