Marriage: Not a Poverty Solution for Black Women?

Marriage: Not a Poverty Solution for Black Women?

It's no secret that black women have a harder time in the marriage market: Black men are more likely than white men to be incarcerated or unemployed, and they're also more likely to marry white women than black women are to marry white men. And when gender ratios are skewed in men's favor, they often respond by becoming less likely to commit.

In a piece featured in our update today, sociologist Philip N. Cohen brings this fact into the marriage-as-poverty-solution debate, and adds some stats. He "counted up the number of employed, non-married men per non-married woman (employed or not) in the age range 25-34, separately for Blacks and Whites, and by education, for the 50 biggest metropolitan areas (one not shown because of data shortage, one outlier excluded). With intermarriage rates so low for Black women, and the tendency not to marry men without jobs, this is a reasonable approximation of the marriage market for Black women, though it understates the number of men available to White women."

This is how the data shake out:

As you can see by looking along the rightmost column, white women don't have too much of a problem: Plenty of dots fall into this shaded area, indicating that marriageable men actually outnumber women in some city/college status combinations. This is very rarely true for black women (along the top row), and a large majority of their dots fall below even the 75:100 line. The cluster of dots in the lower-right quarter of the graph shows that ratios tend to fall between 75 and 125 for white women but between 25 and 75 for black women.

I tend to think (as I told Kevin W. Glass on Bloggingheads last month) that "get married before you have children" is good advice. I have to confess, however, that while I've been aware of the trend above for some time, it wasn't until reading Cohen's post that the full implications of this position dawned on me: To make this work without telling many black women not to have children at all, we'd have to change some major sociological trends -- we'd have to get women to marry unemployed men, get white men and black women to marry each other more (you can see some interesting analysis of interracial-dating trends here), or dramatically reduce unemployment and incarceration among black men.

Robert VerBruggen is editor of RealClearPolicy. Twitter: @RAVerBruggen

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