Four Myths About Black Marriage: Setting the Record Straight
Is marriage for white people? That question has been asked in one form or another in a series of news reports about the black marriage “crisis.” On the surface, such stories seem to be concerned about black women in search of love, but these media reports have largely served to fuel stereotypes about African Americans. Moreover, by suggesting that too few black men are available to wed, news stories on black marriage have done little more than predict doom and gloom for African-American women who hope to marry. In reality, black marriage isn’t reserved for the likes of Barack and Michelle Obama. Analysis of census data and other figures has debunked much of the misinformation floating around in the media about the black marriage rate.
Black Women Don’t Marry
The barrage of news reports about the black marriage rate gives the impression that African-American women’s chances of walking down the aisle are bleak. A Yale University study found that just 42 percent of black women are married, and a variety of high profile news networks such as CNN and ABC picked that figure up and ran with it.
But researchers Ivory A. Toldson of Howard University and Bryant Marks of Morehouse College question the accuracy of this finding. “The often-cited figure of 42 percent of black women never marrying includes all black women 18 and older,” Toldson told the Root.com. “Raising this age in an analysis eliminates age groups we don’t really expect to be married and gives a more accurate estimate of true marriage rates.”
Toldson and Marks found that 75 percent of black women marry before they turn age 35 after examining census data from 2005 to 2009. Moreover, black women in small towns have higher marriage rates than white women in urban centers such as New York and Los Angeles, Toldson remarked in the New York Times.
Educated Black Women Have it Harder
Getting a college degree is just about the worst thing a black woman can do if she wants to get married, right? Not exactly. News stories about black marriage often mention that more black women pursue higher education than black men—by a 2-to-1 ratio according to some reports. But what these pieces leave out is that white women also earn college degrees more than white men do, and this gender imbalance hasn’t hurt white women’s chances at matrimony. What’s more, black women who finish college actually improve their chances of marrying rather than lower them. “Among black women, 70 percent of college graduates are married by 40, whereas only about 60 percent of black high school graduates are married by that age,” Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times reported. The same trend is at play for black men. In 2008, 76 percent of black men with a college degree married by age 40. In contrast, only 63 percent of black men with just a high school diploma tied the knot. So education increases the likelihood of marriage for both African-American men and women. Moreover, Toldson points out that black women with college degrees are more likely to marry than white female high school dropouts.
Rich Black Men Marry Out
Black men drop black women as soon as they reach a certain level of success, don’t they? While plenty of rap stars, athletes and musicians may choose to date or marry interracially when they achieve fame, the same is not true for the bulk of successful black men. By analyzing census data Toldson and Marks found that 83 percent of married black men who earned at least $100,000 annually got hitched to black women. The same is the case for educated black men of all incomes. Eighty-five percent of black male college graduates married black women. Generally, 88 percent of married black men (no matter their income or educational background) have black wives. This means that interracial marriage should not be held responsible for the singleness of black women.
Black Men Don’t Earn as Much as Black Women
Just because black women are more likely to graduate from college than their male counterparts doesn’t mean that they out-earn black men. Actually, black men are more likely than black women to bring home at least $75,000 annually. Plus, double the number of black men than women make at least $250,000 annually. Because of pervasive gender gaps in income, black men remain the breadwinners in the African-American community.
These numbers indicate that there are more than enough financially successful black men to go around for black women. Of course, not every black woman is looking for a breadwinner. Not every black woman is even seeking marriage. Some black women are happily single. Others are gay, lesbian or bisexual and unable to legally wed those they love. For heterosexual black women in search of marriage, however, the forecast is not nearly as gloomy as has been portrayed in the media.