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Black Men Eager to Get Hitched


Black men are more eager for long-term relationships (in most cases, this means marriage) than black women, according to a new study released jointly by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health. The results, which surprised the researchers, indicated that 43 percent of black men were inclined to say they wanted this type of commitment, versus 25 percent of black women.

Study co-director Robert Blendon suggests a possible reason that, despite all the marriage hungry men, more wedding bells aren’t ringing in black America:

[Blendon] pointed to studies in which black women are more concerned with the financial stability of their partners than Latinas or white women. And because black women are outpacing black men on a host of metrics that might determine their financial prospects—black women are more likely to attend and graduate college and receive advanced degrees—Blendon says they may be less likely to see much financial upside in pairing up, compared with black men.

We’ve written about the “decline of men” before, and sadly, all the troubling statics on male education and employment are magnified in the black community. While 58 percent of bachelor’s degrees went to women in 2009-10, black women were awarded nearly two-thirds of the bachelor’s degrees attained by blacks that same year. Black women also earned 71 percent of master’s degrees and 65 percent of doctorates awarded to all African Americans. As for employment, blacks are the only racial or ethnic group “for whom women represent a larger share of the employed than do men,” at 58.3 percent, according to the Department of Labor.

Meanwhile, as the excellent study “Knot Yet” revealed, most black women are not waiting for marriage to have children. Instead, 80 percent of first births to black women are out of wedlock, a number that spikes to 87 percent among those without a college degree. Overall, 86 percent of black households are run by single parents, most of them women.

America’s long and difficult racial history has left a host of problems that affect both women and men among blacks, but it’s increasingly clear that black male kids and young men are particularly vulnerable and at-risk today. Evidently schools need to think more about how to create a more welcoming space for males; a clear national priority should be training more young black men to be K-12 teachers and creating conditions in the profession that can attract and hold them.

But what’s needed most of all is a serious commitment by more American men of all races to reach out to fatherless boys and provide the care, guidance and role models boys and adolescents need to become mature and capable young men. As the black middle class flees the imploding blue cities and joins the rest of the middle class in the burbs, the cultural and social isolation of inner city youth gets worse. We would like to see both black and white churches in the burbs reach out to inner city churches and community organizations to create opportunities for relationships that transcend class and race.

As we’ve noted before on this blog, when women are doing less well than men on a set of important social indicators, there’s a lot of talk about how society is failing and how deep-seated biases that must be corrected are at work. The under-performance of black men is dramatic and devastating; the suffering, the waste and the harm done is immense.  There is no comparably large group of people in our society so seriously affected by so many destructive social forces; America’s response is nowhere near equal to the importance and urgency of the challenge.

[Proposal image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Anthony

    “Why Nations Fail” speaks to “inclusive economic and political institutions” versus “extractive political and economic institutions” somewhere I think principle applies…. Just a thought.

  • wigwag

    This situation is just so tragic. I wish that other members of the press/new media would cover this story as effectively as Via Meadia.

  • rheddles

    This is the collateral damage of the War on Drugs and minimum wage laws. All young adults make bad decisions; this is how they learn. The common mistake young black men make, and which I almost believe society directs them to, is to get involved in “easy money” from the drug trade. Then when caught they have a criminal record they can never erase. It’s sort of like student debt for black people; a mistake that haunts you for the rest of your life with no chance of parole.

    If we legalized drugs, this opportunity would disappear and if we lowered the minimum wage, young black men could get jobs that paid them at the rate of their marginal productivity. That would be lower than we might like, but so is their marginal productivity. Just learning to show up regularly for a job is an incredibly important skill that these men never learn. Giving them chance to put their foot on the bottom rung of the ladder is incredibly important. You never get to the fifth rung if you haven’t stepped on the first. Young black men and other low marginal productivity workers are denied the “right to a job” by our dumb laws.

    One party has a long historical record of keeping the black man down. The other long ago abandoned the efforts on their behalf. It’s time that party returned to that effort by dealing with the problem honestly.

    • bpuharic

      Sure would be interesting to see some objective evidence on the effects of minimum wage laws. Many conservative theorists say they depress employment but I’m certainly not aware of any studies demonstrating this. Minimum wages haven’t kept up with inflation, and I’m not sure what this characterization of blacks as not having the ‘skills’ to show up for a job is designed to prove.

      Res ipsa loquitur, I suppose.

  • theresanursemom

    I work in a large racially mixed workplace and have found the attitudes of black women to be EXTREMELY cynical towards men in general and black men in particular. A great many are single parents and say they do not trust black men to be faithful in a relationship as they have all been burned too many times to be receptive to the idea of opening their hearts to another man. A good two dozen black women have told me that men are good only for sex and a burden in all other areas, so the results of the study do not surprise me at all. The dominant “Player” culture that ensnares a great many young black men creates a level of distraction that steers them away from academic achievement and development of the kind of work ethic that will make them good marriage material down the line. With so many of the young black men primarily obsessed with being “cool” and having as many sexual conquests as possible, mixed with the allure of the drug trade and a black popular culture that mocks most of the attributes that enable success in life as “Acting white” combines with the illegitimacy rate into a perfect storm for failure in life. Whites cannot fix this as most attempts by whites to explain how to better oneself to the black community are met with knee-jerk demagoguery,anger, and defiance rather than even a half-hearted attempt to consider the substance of what is being said. I must add that white males are having a harder and harder time following the traditional paths to success as well and many of the pathologies present in the black community are growing quickly in the white community. Only the Asians seem to be largely immune to the distractions of modern popular culture and able to focus and delay gratification long enough to achieve a consistent degree of success in life. In summary, being cool is everything to a great many young men today, and their marriage prospects will inevitably suffer for it.

  • lhfry

    Setting aside the fact that young white men are quickly developing some of same problems as young black men – including getting involved in drugs and resisting the behaviors that lead to a successful life – why do all discussions of the plight of black women ignore the availability of white men to them too. Black women are not required to marry black men.

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