The Newhouse news service's fine race-and-immigration reporter Jonathan Tilove writes in "Where Have All the Black Men Gone?":
But the most salient statistic about East Orange [NJ] is the number of black men who are not there. Under the age of 18, there are more black boys than girls. Among the adult population, however, there are 37 percent more women than men.
Where are these missing men? Most are dead. Many others are locked up. Some are in the military.
In case you are wondering, East Orange is only 14 miles from Manhattan, so it has enjoyed, de facto, the supposed crime-fighting powers of legalized abortion for 35 years now, ever since the state of New York legalized abortion in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade.
Yet, East Orange was one of those pioneering places where the crack wars and the teen murder surge began in the later 1980s rather than the early 1990s. Although Steven D. Levitt's hypothesized "pre-natal culling" failed so signally to cut crime in East Orange, the intensive "post-natal culling" of the most dangerous young men in East Orange began a few years earlier there than in most parts of America.
Richard Price's 1992 novel "Clockers" about Jersey City crack dealers (and Spike Lee's film version) show how much good legalizing abortion early did to fight crime.
Worse yet, the gender imbalance in East Orange is not some grotesque anomaly. It's a vivid snapshot of a very troubling reality in black America.
There are nearly two million more black adult women than men in America, stark testimony to how often black men die before their time. With nearly another million black men in prison or the military, the real imbalance is even greater -- a gap of 2.8 million, according to U.S. Census data for 2002. On average, then, there are 26 percent more black women than black men; among whites, women outnumber men by just 8 percent.
Perhaps no single statistic so precisely measures the fateful, often fatal, price of being a black man in America, or so powerfully conveys how beset black communities are by the violence and disease that leaves them bereft of brothers, fathers, husbands and sons, and leaves whole communities reeling. ...
In the March/April issue of Health Affairs, Dr. David Satcher, surgeon general under former President Bill Clinton and now the interim president of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, exposes the core of the problem: Between 1960 and 2000, the disparity between mortality rates for black and white women narrowed while the disparity between the rates for black and white men grew wider.
Exponentially higher homicide and AIDS rates play their part, especially among younger black men. Even more deadly through middle age and beyond are higher rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The imbalance between the numbers of black men and women does not exist everywhere. There is no gap to speak of in places with relatively small black populations like Minneapolis, Minn.; Portland, Ore.; San Francisco and San Diego. And Seattle actually has more black men than women.
But it is the rule in communities with large concentrated black populations. There are, for instance, more than 30 percent more black women than men in Baltimore, New Orleans, Chicago and Cleveland, and in smaller cities like Harrisburg, Pa. There are 36 percent more black women than men in New York City, and 37 percent more in Saginaw, Mich., and Philadelphia. In Newark, the figure is 26 percent.
In East Orange, there were more black males under 18 than females in 2000. And yet, there were 29 percent more black women than men in their 20s.,,
According to The Sentencing Project in Washington, on any given day in America, one in eight black males ages 25 to 29 is incarcerated, and nearly a third of all black men in their 20s are behind bars, on probation or on parole. [More]
If you are wondering why crime fell so sharply in New York City (the subject of a debate between Levitt and Malcolm Gladwell), I'd focus on that statistic that there are now 36 percent more black women than black men in NYC.
It's absurd for Levitt to focus on prenatal culling as a crime-reducer when the post-natal culling of black males in places like East Orange became so ferocious during the late 1980s. If there are 29 percent fewer black men in their 20s than black women in East Orange today, and a few percent of the black women are in jail or dead due to their being involved in criminal activities, then roughly 25 percent of the black male population gets culled by age 25, and those 25 percent tend to be the most violent members of that cohort. If the most dangerous 25% of a cohort disappears, that's going to have a much bigger impact than randomly aborting some of the cohort, prenatally.
However, not all the decline in crime came just from culling criminals. The 14-17 year old murder rate for black male youths born in the early 1980s was only one third as high as for black male youths born in the late 1970s. (Abortion can't explain that because the non-white abortion rate peaked in 1977.) I like to think that a lot of little brothers learned lessons from the abattoir years of 1990-1994.