Joy Jones wrote an op-ed in last week's Washington Post titled "Marriage is for White People." That's what a sixth grade boy told her when she was teaching a career exploration class in a DC elementary school. The 12-year old boys agreed that fatherhood was a very important goal for them, but marriage was not. Jones examines the shift in values that have made marriage seem unnecessary for many Black Americans, and she presents the numbers:
"The marriage rate for African Americans has been dropping since the 1960s, and today, we have the lowest marriage rate of any racial group in the United States. In 2001, according to the U.S. Census, 43.3 percent of black men and 41.9 percent of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27.4 percent and 20.7 percent respectively for whites. African American women are the least likely in our society to marry."
"I was stunned to learn that a black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents during slavery days than he or she is today, according to sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin."
Jones discusses the various social/cultural factors hehind the decline in marriage among Black Americans. She appears to be ambivalent about this trend, and relates her own decistion not to marry five years ago:
"As I reviewed the situation, I realized that all the things I expected marriage to confer -- male companionship, close family ties, a house -- I already had, or were within reach, and with exponentially less drama. I can do bad by myself, I used to say as I exited a relationship. But the truth is, I can do pretty good by myself, too."
It seems odd to me that people often think of marriage in terms of "what I can get out of it?" instead of thinking "what can I bring to it?" The notion of a partnership that requires some self-sacrifice of the part of two individuals to create a greater good for both seems to be lacking.
It does not bode well for America's Black kids that many of their parents think that marriage is for chumps. The advantages that marriage confers to children (economic, health, education, etc.) are well documented. The health benefit for adults are well documented too.
Jones speculates that White America will follow suit and increasingly decide against marriage too. But Hymowitz's article notes that the majority of White Americans who opt for single parenthood are from the lower end of the economic spectrum, not from the middle and upper classes.
I don't know how to change the trend that Jones has documented, for either race, but I'm hoping that the pendulum swings back real soon. Discussions on this are going on at Booker Rising here and at LaShawn Barber here.