In neighborhoods where men are missing in action, youth violence is more likely, a recent University of Michigan study has concluded.

A research team from the university’s School of Public Health zeroed in on Flint, Mich., a former auto industrial town, with a large Black population, that is now one of America’s most economically challenged and violent cities. They cross-referenced police data on youth assault arrests and U.S. Census Bureau data and found that in census tracts where there were low ratios of adult men to adult women, young people were 36 percent more likely to commit assaults.

When education attainment was added to the analysis, the results were even more pronounced: Adult male scarcity and the lack of a high school degree together accounted for 69 percent of the variation in the rates of violent behavior among 10-to-24-year-olds.

Daniel Kruger, research assistant professor at the university and an author of the study, told the AFRO that previous research has tied the absence of fathers to the increased likelihood that those children would be poor, would use drugs and would experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems and other adverse outcomes. However, he added, his study is the first to examine the impact of adult scarcity on youth violence at a community-wide level.

“Male scarcity is a powerful risk factor for youth violence that is currently unrecognized,” he said.

More than 24 million—or 1 in 3—children live apart from their biological fathers, according to 2011 U.S. Census Bureau statistics. The absence of these male figures are more pronounced in African-American homes, where 64 percent of children live without a father compared to 34 percent of Hispanic children and 25 percent of White children.

“It is definitely a factor that affects the African-American community in Flint,” Kruger said.

The professor pointed to several factors that may account for the male shortage in Flint and similar communities: Across the United States, men have been more likely to lose their jobs and were more likely to seek unemployment away from their communities. They also experienced higher mortality rates than women due to violence and disease; and higher incarceration rates have also siphoned men away from their neighborhoods.

In light of these findings, Kruger suggested that intervention programs that strengthen relationships between fathers and children could mitigate youth violence. He also said that officials need to rethink policies that over-criminalize and over-incarcerate men for low-level infractions.

“When you take men out of the community you have this scarcity of men who could be positive role models and provide economic stability,” he said.


Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO