Marriage, divorce and single black women
The plight of single black women has received widespread attention in recent years — cover stories in Essence and Newsweek magazines and countless newspaper articles. This year, the movie Something New even opened up the possibility of dating outside the race since some 42.4% of black women might never marry because of the dearth of marriageable black men. Nationally, there are 10 single black women for every seven single black men. The picture looks worse if you subtract those who are incarcerated and unemployed.
But the obsession with the black female marriage problem has overshadowed an equally daunting fact: Many black marriages don't survive.
Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded $118 million in grants for research, projects and programs designed to encourage healthy marriages. The operative word for these grants being "healthy" because studies over the past 10 years suggest that marriage for blacks isn't a cure-all, either:The University of Illinois tracked 199 black and 174 white couples during their first years of marriage. The study found that after three years, 17% of the black couples were divorced or separated, three times the white percentage.
Analysis of a national survey of 13,017 adults by sociologists Mark Rank and Larry Davis at Washington University in St. Louis found that married blacks more so than whites believed that divorce would improve their finances, career, social life, sex life and parenting.
In 1970, according to Census data, 57% of black men and 54% of black women were married. By 2005, those figures had dropped to 42% and 35%, respectively. And 68% of white men and 63% of white women were married in 1970, compared with 59% and 57% respectively last year.
Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson has spoken to many black husbands and wives who are disappointed, dissatisfied or disloyal. One overriding problem, according to Patterson, is the issue of sex roles. "Our men still have male-dominant attitudes toward their spouses," he says, but contemporary black women have more independent views about their roles.
And while some might find being a single black woman distressing, married women reported being in poorer health. This according to "The Consequences of Marriage for African Americans," published last year by the pro-marriage Institute for American Values, a non-profit aimed at improving marriage.
No 'Prince Charming' after all
Consequences of Marriage for African Americans: A Comprehensive Literature Review