The Origins of the Underclass

Nicholas Lemann, The Atlantic, June 1986.


The conservative answer is that welfare and the whole Great Society edifice of compensatory programs for blacks do exactly the opposite of what they’re supposed to: they make blacks worse off by encouraging them to become dependent on government checks and favors. Poor blacks have children out of wedlock and don’t work, so that they can get money from liberal programs. This view is energetically codified in Charles Murray’s 1984 book Losing Ground, which presents a series of charts and graphs showing poor blacks becoming poorer — and crime rising, and efforts to find work declining, and educational achievement dropping — during precisely the time of the War on Poverty.

The Atlantic