Black Marriages: Is Marriage Good for Black People?

| 09/22/2011 | Comments (2)

The Consequences of Marriage for African Americans

A Comprehensive Literature Review

published by The Institute of American Values

 

10 Major Findings:

 

#1 Marriage clearly appears to promote the economic, social, familial, and psychological well-being of African American men and women. Even when studies control for a wide range of variables, they consistently find that married Black adults, compared to those who are unmarried, have more income, are less likely to face poverty, and are more likely to be happy. Marriage also appears to promote better family functioning for African Americans. At the same time, the evidence generally suggests that Black adults derive little benefit from marriage in terms of physical health.

#2 While both Black men and Black women receive a marriage premium, this premium in most cases appears to be larger for men. Put a bit differently, BLACK WOMEN OVERALL SEEM TO RECEIVE LESS BENEFIT FROM MARRIAGE THAN DO BLACK MEN. This gender gap is especially pronounced in the areas of family life and physical health. In fact, married Black women actually report poorer health than do unmarried Black women. The one exception to this pattern is in the economic domain, where Black men and women appear to benefit comparably from marriage.

#3 Economically, marriage appears to benefit Blacks more than Whites. In part because marriage often means an additional wage earner for the family, and in part because marriage typically increases the income and the economic productivity of individuals, married-couple Black families have far more income, and are far less likely to live in poverty, than other Black families. This economic premium stemming from marriage is comparably larger for Blacks than for Whites. In general, marriage appears to contribute greatly to the economic well-being of African American families.

#4 Overall, BLACK WOMEN APPEAR TO BENEFIT FROM MARRIAGE SUBSTANTIALLY LESS THAN DO WHITE WOMEN. By contrast, the differences in the benefit from marriage between Black men and White men appear in most cases to be minimal.

#5 Black-White differences in marital quality seem to constitute an important reason why Black adults, and particularly Black women, typically benefit less from marriage than do Whites. On average, the marriages of Whites appear to be marked by more happiness and less conflict than those of African Americans. The lower average quality of African American marriages, in turn, seems to reduce the benefits to adults that those marriages might otherwise yield. In our analysis of data from the General Social Surveys, we find that controlling for marital quality significantly reduces the Black-White gap in the estimated benefits of marriage.

#6 Parental marriage produces important benefits for African American children. Black children of married parents typically receive better parenting, are less delinquent, have fewer behavioral problems, have higher self-esteem, are more likely to delay sexual activity, and have moderately better educational outcomes. Because many of the relevant studies on child outcomes employ comprehensive controls, there is strong reason to believe that these findings reflect more than mere correlations. Marriage itself appears to be generating strong positive results for African American children. At the same time, marriage may have little or no impact on school dropout and drug use among Black adolescents.

#7 Parental marriage appears to be especially important for the well-being of young African American males. In areas including parental support, delinquency, self-esteem, and school performance, having one’s father in the home, and particularly one’s married father, appears to be a crucial determinant of better outcomes for young Black males. When viewed alongside our other finding regarding the larger marriage premium for Black men, as compared to Black women, this finding suggests that marriage is particularly important for African American males at all stages of the life cycle.

#8 In some areas, Black children seem to benefit more from parental marriage than do White children, whereas in other areas, the reverse is true. Regarding both levels of parental support and the risks of delinquency, African American children seem to benefit more from parental marriage than do White children. Yet regarding educational performance, early sexual activity, substance use, and possibly high school completion, White children appear to derive greater benefits from parental marriage than do their African American peers.

#9 The reasons for some apparent racial differences in the consequences of marriage for children are not clear, and further research in this area is needed. One possibility is that studies need more carefully to distinguish the effects of parental non-marriage on Black sons as compared to Black daughters, since the impact on boys appears to be greater than the impact on girls. Another, related possibility is that the institutional contexts and cultural norms affecting African American children are in some respects distinctive, thus making it harder for researchers to tease out the specific effects of marriage and non-marriage when it comes to Black-White differences in child outcomes.

#10 For policy makers who care about Black America, marriage matters. Public and private sector policies aimed at increasing marriage rates among African Americans, and particularly policies aimed at increasing the number and proportion of high quality Black marriages, are important strategies for improving the well-being of African Americans and for strengthening civil society.

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In light of Ralph Richard Banks’ new book “Is Marriage for White People?” and the high number of single parent homes in the Black community with associated high incarceration rates for Black males, what are your thoughts on this study?

Is the true answer that Black men would do better to get and stay married, raising their children especially their sons?

And if Black women truly benefit less from marriage than Black males or White females, why are so many Black women in a rush to find a husband?

Is marriage for Black people, Black women in particular?

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Deborrah

Veteran social researcher, relationship advice columnist, author and radio host. Author of hundreds of articles on American and black culture, gender issues, singles, dating and relationships. Author of "Sucka Free Love!" , "The 24 Types of Suckas to Avoid," "The Black Church - Where Women Pray and Men Pray," and "Why Vegan is the New Black" all available on Amazon.Com. Her unique voice and insightful commentary have delighted fans and riled haters for 20 years. Read her stuff on SurvivingDating.Com and AskHeartBeat.Com.

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  1. Bellydancer says:

    I wonder if Black women benefit less because they tend to marry down when they do marry black men?
    There is a certain stress that can come with that.

    • blackcaesar says:

      Bellydancer,

      I think Black women do benefit less because they tend to marry down when they do marry. Black women seem stressed out. Whether theyr’e single parents or married, they are “the mules of the Earth” in that they carry the heavy load. Even in the workplace, they do more work for less pay. It is seemingly the designated role of black women to perpetually be rolling a boulder uphill in all aspects of their lives, both professionally and personally.

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