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  • Herbert J. Gans (a1)

The Moynihan Report of 1965 will soon be fifty years old, and some social scientists now venerate it as a sterling application of social science data and analysis by the federal government. This author, who was directly involved in events connected with the release of the Report, does not agree; this article examines the shortcomings of the Report. I argue that Moynihan's analysis, which intended to investigate the ties between Black male unemployment and the Black family, actually devoted most of its attention to the high proportion of single-parent families in the poor Black population, treating it as one symptom of a “tangle of pathology” that stood in the way of this population's escape from joblessness and poverty. Today, the Report is being hailed as having predicted the current and still worsening state of the poor Black family. Moynihan's work is also being reinterpreted as an early application of cultural analysis, thereby further drawing attention away from the job-related issues which led Moynihan to undertake his study. Moynihan himself made significant contributions to antipoverty policy later in his career, but his Report does not deserve the worship it continues to receive.

Corresponding author
Herbert J. Gans, Department of Sociology, Columbia University, Knox Hall, 606 W. 122nd Street, MC 9649, New York, NY 10027. E-mail:
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The author is grateful to Merlin Chowkwanyun and Alice O'Connor for very helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper and to Nathan Glazer, Nicholas Lemann, and James Patterson for answers to his several questions about the Report's history.

Linked references
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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

James J. Heckman (2011). A Post-Racial Strategy for Improving Skills to Promote Equality. Daedalus, 140(2): 7089.

Douglas S. Massey and Robert J Sampson (2009). Moynihan Redux: Legacies and Lessons, In The Moynihan Report Revisited: Lessons and Reflections after Four Decades. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 621: 627.

Mario Small , David J. Harding , and Michele Lamont (2010). Introduction: Reconsidering Culture and Poverty. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 629: 627.

James Q. Wilson (2009). Pat Moynihan Thinks About Families. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 621: 2833.

William J. Wilson (2009a). The Moynihan Report and Research on the Black Community. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 621: 3446.

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Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
  • ISSN: 1742-058X
  • EISSN: 1742-0598
  • URL: /core/journals/du-bois-review-social-science-research-on-race
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