Author Archive | Prof. Rick Banks, guest-blogging

How Black Women would help themselves and the black community by more frequently marrying men of other races

This is the last post related to my recently published book, Is Marriage for White People?.

Black women are the least likely of any minority group population to marry across racial lines. Only about 1 in 20 black women is married to a man of a different race. Black women are segregated in their relationships in part because they are committed to forming relationships with black men. However laudable that commitment, it is counterproductive and undermines the black family that women seek to bolster.

Black women confront a paucity of suitable male partners and thus either remain unmarried in unprecedented numbers or marry a less educated and/or lower earning man, also to an unprecedented extent. Neither of these outcomes is optimal. Most black women, like women of all races, want to marry. And when professional women partner with working class men, problems are likely to result.

Black women would benefit themselves by more frequently marrying across the race line. These women would not only have more relationships, they’d have better relationships too. In marrying down rather than out, black women choose a partner of the same race but a different class. Many college-educated black women would do better to find a man of the same class, even if a different race. While compatibility may be a matter of both race and class, it is clearly that case that black women’s marriage patterns reflect too much emphasis of race and not enough of class.

For black women to cross the race line would produce another, broader benefit as well. By exiting the segregated African American relationship market, black women would help to lessen the disproportionate relationship power that black men wield as a result of their scarcity, and which depresses the marriage rates of even middle class African American couples. […]

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Why Black Women Don’t Marry Non-Black Men

Tuesday I explained that black women often remain unmarried, and yesterday that they frequently marry less educated or lower earning men.

Today, we turn another puzzle that is explored in my book, Is Marriage for White People?: why black women don’t marry men of other races. Black women are only half or less as likely as black men to marry across race lines, and only a third or less as likely as Asian Americans and Latinos to marry across race lines. Black women’s intimate segregation is often compared to that of Asian American men, but in fact Asian American men marry interracially much more frequently than do black women.

Although the gender gap in African American intermarriage is generally assumed to be longstanding, it is not. As recently as 1960, according to census data, black women were as likely as black men to wed across the race line. (At that time, intermarriage was legal in most states, though Loving v Virginia did not make it legal in all states until 1967.)

So why have black men become so much more likely than black women to wed a person of another race?

The answer comes in two parts: supply and demand. Simply put, there is less demand for black women on the part of potential other race partners. Practically every study of internet dating, for example, has found that black women are the least preferred group of partners in the view of nonblack men.

But lack of demand is not the entire explanation. Even if say, half of nonblack men declined to date or marry black women, there are still more potential nonblack partners for black women than there are black women. Indeed, the internet dating studies confirm that the possibilities for interracial romance are greater for black women than […]

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The Puzzle of Black Women’s Marriage Patterns

Yesterday I posted an excerpt from the introduction to my recently published book, Is Marriage for White People?. Today, Thursday and Friday I will examine three central issues the book examines.

Black women more frequently than any other group of women marry men who are less educated or lower earning than they are. More than half of college educated black wives have husbands who are less educated than they are. These relationships are more prone than relationships among socioeconomic equals to be conflict ridden and prone to divorce. Two different types of problems arise.

One problem is that both spouses may be uncomfortable with a situation in which the wife earns more than the husband. When the wife supports the family because the husband cannot, the husband may feel threatened, emasculated. Less discussed but not less important is that the wife may also think less of a husband who earns less than she does. Professionally accomplished wives may support their family financially, but they were not raised expecting to do so.

Of the empirical findings that support this interpretation, my favorite is this: When the husband earns the bulk of the income, the spouses are equally likely to have final say about financial decisions. When the wife earns the bulk of the income, in contrast, the wife is twice as likely as the husband to have final say about financial decisions. This finding mirrors a pattern that I noticed among the couples whose stories I recount in the book: His earnings are joint, but her earnings are hers. This is but one aspect of the incomplete transformation of gender roles.

A second problem is that professional women with working class husbands often experience a sort of cultural conflict. Although they share the same race, their educational and professional experiences differ […]

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Overview of “Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone”

I have included a portion of the introduction to my recently released book, along with a link to one of my recent appearances on CNN. In subsequent posts, I will discuss in some more detail the issues raised in the Introduction and in the CNN clip.

The captivating image of Barack and Michelle Obama accentuates a sobering reality. As African Americans, they are extraordinary in the most ordinary way: They are a married couple raising their children together.

Over the past half-century, African Americans have become the most unmarried people in our nation. By far. We are the least likely to marry and the most likely to divorce; we maintain fewer committed and enduring relationships than any other group. Not since slavery have black men and women been as unpartnered as we are now.

Although the African American marriage decline is especially pronounced among the poor, it is apparent as well among the affluent: doctors, lawyers, corporate professionals. Black women of all socioeconomic classes remain single not because they want to be, but instead because the ranks of black men have been decimated by incarceration, educational failure, and economic disadvantage. Nearly twice as many black women as men graduate college. As a result, college-educated black women are more likely than college-educated women of other races to remain unmarried or to wed a less educated man who earns less than they do. Half of college-educated black wives less educated husbands, a gap that makes such relationships more often conflicted and prone to divorce.

Yet black women do not marry men of other races. Black women marry across class lines, but not race lines. They marry down but not out. Thus, they lead the most racially segregated intimate lives of any Americans.

Why? Why, even amidst rising rates of interracial marriage, are […]

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