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Is Marriage for White People?: How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyoneby Ralph Banks
Synopses & Reviews
A distinguished Stanford law professor examines the steep decline in marriage rates among the African American middle class, and offers a paradoxical-nearly incendiary-solution.
Black women are three times as likely as white women to never marry.
That sobering statistic reflects a broader reality: African Americans are the most unmarried people in our nation, and contrary to public perception the racial gap in marriage is not confined to women or the poor. Black men, particularly the most successful and affluent, are less likely to marry than their white counterparts. College educated black women are twice as likely as their white peers never to marry.
Is Marriage for White People? is the first book to illuminate the many facets of the African American marriage decline and its implications for American society. The book explains the social and economic forces that have undermined marriage for African Americans and that shape everyone's lives. It distills the best available research to trace the black marriage decline's far reaching consequences, including the disproportionate likelihood of abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, single parenthood, same sex relationships, polygamous relationships, and celibacy among black women.
This book centers on the experiences not of men or of the poor but of those black women who have surged ahead, even as black men have fallen behind. Theirs is a story that has not been told. Empirical evidence documents its social significance, but its meaning emerges through stories drawn from the lives of women across the nation. Is Marriage for White People? frames the stark predicament that millions of black women now face: marry down or marry out. At the core of the inquiry is a paradox substantiated by evidence and experience alike: If more black women married white men, then more black men and women would marry each other.
This book not only sits at the intersection of two large and well- established markets-race and marriage-it responds to yearnings that are widespread and deep in American society. The African American marriage decline is a secret in plain view about which people want to know more, intertwining as it does two of the most vexing issues in contemporary society. The fact that the most prominent family in our nation is now an African American couple only intensifies the interest, and the market. A book that entertains as it informs, Is Marriage for White People? will be the definitive guide to one of the most monumental social developments of the past half century.
"Banks, a Stanford law professor, examines why black Americans maintain the lowest marriage and highest divorce rates in the nation, focusing most sharply on the high likelihood a black woman will remain single, a product of the scarcity of black men in the marriage market, their number depleted by high incarceration rates. This 'man shortage' leaves those who are available in high demand and with less impetus to commit to one woman. In the U.S., wives earn a larger percentage of the household income than ever and are more likely to have completed college than their husbands. This trend is most acute among African-Americans , which coupled with how African-American women outperform their male counterparts contributes to the high African-American divorce rate. Banks suggests that black women should stop being so willing to 'marry down' and consider 'marrying out' — marrying nonblack men. Such a choice restores equality to black male and female relationships by depriving black men of the power they enjoy as the result of being scarce commodities. Furthermore, Banks argues provocatively, 'for black women, interracial marriage doesn't abandon the race, it serves the race.' Peppered with interviews and candid opinions about marriage and relationships, this is a surprisingly intimate scholarly work; the sobering topic is tempered by the author's easy-to-read, captivating style. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
During the past half century, African Americans have become the most unmarried people in our nation. More than two out of every three black women are unmarried, and they are more than twice as likely as white women never to marry. The racial gap in marriage extends beyond the poor. Affluent and college educated African Americans are also less likely to marry or stay married than their white counterparts. That harms black children and adults, and imperils the growth and stability of the black middle class.
One reason that marriage has declined is that as black women have advanced economically and educationally, men have fallen behind. Each year two black women graduate college for every one black man. Two to one. Every year. The shortage of successful black men not only leaves black women unmarried, it renders them more likely than other women to marry less educated and lower earning men. Half of black wives who are college graduates have husbands who are not.Yet black women rarely marry men of other races. They are less than half as likely as black men, and only a third as likely as Latinos or Asian Americans, to wed across group lines. Is Marriage for White People? traces the far-reaching consequences of the African American marriage decline. It also explains why black women marry down rather than out. Its provocative conclusion is that black women would benefit both themselves and the black race if they crossed class lines less and race lines more.
As particular as this inquiry may seem, it is also universal. Americans of all races are more unmarried now than ever. And as women surpass men educationally, wives increasingly earn more than their husbands. In illuminating the lives of African Americans, Is Marriage for White People? thus probes cultural and economic trends that implicate everyone, highlighting the extent to which the experience of black women may become that of all women.
This book both informs and entertains. The culmination of a decade of research by a distinguished Stanford law professor, it melds scholarly theory and data with the poignant stories shared by black women throughout the nation. This unforgettable book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the shifting terrain of intimacy in American society.
About the Author
Ralph Richard Banks is the Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, where he has taught about marriage, race, discrimination, and inequality since 1998. His writings have appeared in academic journals such as the Stanford Law Review and the Yale Law Journal and in popular publications such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune. He lives in Palo Alto.
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