In clean and efficient prose, Banks presents a lucid picture of romantic life in black America. Moreover, he disposes of the mythology that the failure to marry is primarily an underclass phenomenon, turning his attention especially to the lives of middle-class black women. He has set out to answer the question: Why are black women “half as likely as white women to be married, and more than three times as likely as white women never to marry”?
Banks conducted some 100 interviews with African-Americans about their experiences with marriage and dating, and his findings guided him as he sought additional answers in the social science research. He correctly notes that while divorce is common in the United States, and while out-of-wedlock birth is increasing across demographic groups, marriage remains a social ideal and status marker in American culture. He writes that African-Americans value marriage as much as other groups, despite the statistics, but that the impediments to marriage for black people are daunting and multifaceted.
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.
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.
Banks handily extinguishes the myth that black women are too picky when seeking a mate. In fact, he notes that black women are more likely than women of other groups to marry men who are less successful than they are, educationally or occupationally.
IS MARRIAGE FOR WHITE PEOPLE?
How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone
By Ralph Richard Banks
289 pp. Dutton. $25.95.
My hypothesis is that black men are the problem. Not intellectually engaged in schooling they end up with lower career achievements than women but the US norm is men being the bread earners. This produces a sense of alienation in mismatched marriage. But deeper down, men who are underachievers also tend to have lower sense of responsibility, which led to high divorce. To a certain degree Thai males have the same issue.