Education Opinion

‘Is Marriage for White People?’

By Richard Whitmire — September 18, 2011 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Great title to what looks to be an interesting book, as the Times review lays out.

Author Ralph Richard Banks dispels what the reviewer calls a popular perception that black women are too choosy. Where does that come from? Sitcoms and Hollywood, I suspect. The correct answer, of course is the economic reality of the marriageable mate dilemma:

Black women significantly outperform black men in high school and college. As a result, the black middle class is disproportionately female and the black poor are disproportionately male, and the gap is widening. Extraordinary rates of incarceration for black men, and the long-term effects of a prison record on employment, exacerbate this situation. Banks refers to studies indicating that "in evaluating potential mates, economic stability still matters more for African-Americans than for other groups." Yet they may never find that security, and therefore never marry. Moreover, the benefits of marriage don't accrue as readily for African-Americans as for other groups precisely because of their economic instability. Marriage simply isn't an essential component for their well-being. For example, Banks cites data showing that black children with married parents fare no better academically or economically in the long run than their born-out-of-wedlock counterparts. Nor can we assume, Banks says, that children born to unmarried parents do not have a paternal presence, or that children born to married parents are living in a stable household. Case in point: The rates of divorce and reported dissatisfaction among married black couples are higher than those among married white couples.

The more interesting comment, from my perspective, is that the marriageable mate dilemma is playing out among whites, as well. Given that among whites earning bachelor’s degrees, 57 percent are female, how could it not be? Will whites follow the same non-marriage pattern as blacks? In a decade, we should have some answers to that question.

The opinions expressed in Why Boys Fail are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.