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That reality has academics revisiting a nearly 50-year-old report that explored the impact of government assistance and family situations on the black community. The 1965 report by Daniel Patrick Moynihan — at the time an assistant secretary in the Labor Department, who would later become a Democratic senator from New York — examined why rates of government dependence increased among blacks even as employment opportunities widened and brought a backlash from members of his own party.

In the ensuing decades, policies focused on propping up single mothers economically rather than addressing fatherlessness, with programs including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamps and the Women, Infants and Children food program all geared toward single women, especially those with multiple children.

“We said, ‘How do we build the resources for single mothers to be able to compensate for absent fathers, instead of equipping families to remain intact?’” said Kenneth Braswell Sr., director of Fathers Inc. in Albany, N.Y. “We ignored the core of the Moynihan report, which was pay attention to the black father, because that guy is the one that’s going to determine the outcome.”

Fifty years and few answers

An analysis looking back on the report found that many factors tied to the presence of male role models among poor blacks have only worsened.

The Urban Institute and Mr. Braswell’s group, in preparation for a Feb. 22 event, found that the percent of black women who are married declined from 53 percent to 25 percent over the past half-century, compared with a drop from 65 percent to 52 percent for white women and a 67 percent to 43 percent drop for Hispanics.

“Now you have an increased number of black researchers who are saying ‘Whoa, this guy was on point. I may not like the way he went about it, but in terms of his numbers, they can’t be disputed,’” Mr. Braswell said.

Black men were 5 percent more likely to be working than black women in 2011, the groups said, and black women were more likely to hold jobs than white women for most of the past decade. Last year, that number was about equal.

“What we did in 1965 is misdiagnose the issue. It’s like catching a cold and saying the issue is you have a runny nose,” he said. “That’s just a symptom. We went right at healing the runny nose, and the bacteria were popping up all over: guys having children by multiple women, not feeling obligated to stick around.”

The Moynihan report did not provide a prescription.

“He said, ‘Here’s the data, it’s now your job to figure out where to go with this,’” Mr. Braswell said.

Even with nearly 50 years to reflect on the findings, solutions are not clear-cut.

“We’re also not going to provide any recommendations” this month, he said.

To Mr. Cunningham, the pastor, a clue is provided by a half-century of money-intensive government payments that accompanied only the further decline of families.

“The government doesn’t have the power to fill” the role of parental guidance and love, he said. “We’ll throw money at it, but it’s not a money problem,” he said. Tight budgetary times could provide an impetus.

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