Black Progress Before The Welfare State


Conservatives are labeled racist just for opposing the welfare state, as if the claim itself is all the evidence needed. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

We’re often told that the economic disparity between whites and blacks is a symptom of a racist society inculcated with racial undertones that are implicit within the white “hegemony” that controls our institutions.

Many liberals and libertarians alike blame the War on Drugs (a symptom rather a cause) and disproportionate incarceration rates as inherently racist.

What seems to be ignored however is the performance of blacks in the past—when racism was more pervasive and socially acceptable—compared to their performance now.

Did the welfare state help or hurt the advancement of blacks?

At the turn of the century neighborhoods had yet to be segregated like we see today. At a time where racism was more palpable and explicitly legal (Jim Crow) communities were more integrated. Blacks were poorer than they are today but you seldom saw black riots like we saw in the 1960’s and like we have seen in the present day. Violent crime was lower and murder rates among blacks was on the decline in the 1950’s.

It wasn’t until the explicitly racist policy of FDR’s new deal that truly segregated blacks from whites in urban settings as Law Professor Richard Rothstein explains that the PWA, “razed and then built segregated public housing in those neighborhoods… where none existed before” (Rothstein).

During this time blacks were making unprecedented gains despite the roadblocks created by government. The black poverty rate declined from 87% in 1940 to 47% in 1960, before LBJ’s Great Society. Jason L. Riley of The Wall Street Journal provides some perspective:

The percentage of black white-collar workers quadrupled between 1940 and 1970—before the implementation of affirmative-action policies that supposedly produced today’s black middle class.

In New York City, the earnings of black workers tripled between 1940 and 1950, and over the next decade the city saw a 55% increase in the number of black lawyers, a 56% increase in the number of black doctors and a 125% increase in the number of black teachers, according to political scientist Michael Javen Fortner’s new book, “Black Silent Majority.

The number of black nurses, accountants and engineers grew at an even faster clip over the same period. “There are signs that the Negro has begun to develop a large, strong middle class,” wrote Time magazine in 1953.

In 1940 the black illegitimacy rate was at 14%, today it stands at nearly 75%.

Since the inception of the Great Society nearly three quarters of black children are born to single parent families. The ghetto subculture is now subsidized and perpetuated by government largesse. Most of what welfare has accomplished is to reduce the costs of counterproductive decisions and behavior.

This only bolsters the idea among the power hungry and all-knowing intelligentsia that the causes of economic disparities are to remain the same, and it’s everyone else that needs to change. After all, if these communities didn’t need them or government, what role would the self-aggrandizing politicians, race hustlers and intellectuals play in our society today?


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Will Ricciardella is the owner of Unbiased America and Ricciardella is also an editor at Occupy Democrats Logic. He holds degrees in economics and political science from Cal State University Long Beach. Currently Ricciardella is a writer at the Daily Caller News Foundation in Washington D.C. Please send tips to