January/ February 2013 The New White Negro

What it means that family breakdown is now biracial.

By Isabel Sawhill

To say that class is becoming more important than race isn’t to dismiss race as a very important factor. Blacks have faced, and will continue to face, unique challenges. But when we look for the reasons why less skilled blacks are failing to marry and join the middle class, it is largely for the same reasons that marriage and a middle-class lifestyle is eluding a growing number of whites as well. The jobs that unskilled men once did are gone, women are increasingly financially independent, and a broad cultural shift across America has created a new normal.

Click here to read more from our Jan/Feb 2013 cover package “Race, History, and Obama’s Second Term.”

Isabel Sawhill , a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, has written extensively on the family and the economy. Her most recent book is "Creating an Opportunity Society."


  • Clifton Little on January 25, 2013 1:04 PM:

    Further excellent reading from the Washington Monthly. I really recommend that our youth be encouraged to read these bites of history that may have effected their lives today that is not so well-publicised.

  • David on January 27, 2013 2:06 AM:

    A further thing that ought to be mentioned is that working-class whites now have a lower life expectancy than working-class blacks.

    So while they have higher employment, they tend to live slightly less. This is the first time this has happened in the history of the U.S.

    The implications of this are mostly the same as Ms. Sawhill has outlined. Further, demonizing the white working class, popular among liberal pundits, is not going to be a great formula going forward as most working-class whites are now living in conditions that are truly bad. But as long as they sense, correctly, that there is a general hostility towards them from the liberal chattering classes, they will vote with their feet.

    Racial politics is, in the end, not good. But it is addictive to ethnic activists, who need a bogeyman to hate and unite around.

  • Qatmom on February 05, 2013 3:36 PM:

    At a class in 1985, a black chemist told me that all the evils visited upon the black family would eventually spread to the white family as well. It made sense. Now, it is happening--she was right.