During slavery Black couples “jumped the broom” to symbolize the sweeping away of old lives and their commitment to each other even under unaccommodating and dangerous circumstances. Often owned by different families and separated geographically, subject to being sold separately, these couples tenaciously and often covertly celebrated and preserved their unions. In 1890, 80% of African American households were led by two married adults. Between 1950 – 1970 Black women in their 40s were more likely to have been married than were white women of the same age. Over the last 50 years, the overall marriage rate in the U.S. has dropped by nearly 60%; many of the life events we link to marriage, such as cohabiting or having kids, are increasingly occurring outside of marriage, and African Americans have become the most unmarried people in this nation.
hough the majority of African Americans say they want to be married only 29% are, and many of those alliances are insecure. This is injurious to Black children and adults and hinders the growth and stability of the Black middle class. Eighty-eight per cent of African American teens believe marriage is personally important, (https:// www.healthymarriageinfo.org/research-policy/ marriage-facts-and-research/marriage-anddivorce-statistics-by-culture/african-americansand-black-community), but 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.
Ralph Richard Banks, Black author of Marriage for White People? Suggests that since Black women have so diligently concentrated on educational and earnings goals, they have postponed their marriage plans, and black men have lost ground. With twice as many single Black women graduating from college each year than Black men, they are more likely than any other group of women to marry less educated and lower earning men; highly educated Black women are more likely to never marry. Armon R Perry’s Black Love Matters: Authentic Men’s Voices on Marriage and Romantic Relationships acknowledges that too many Black men are not desirable marriage candidates because their financial struggles prevent them from supporting a wife and family.
Sociologist, Harvard professor and author William Julius Wilson recognizes the dearth of “marriageable” Black men to be the result of their high rates of incarceration and mortality. He reports that two thirds of black women prioritize a husband to provide a good income, compared to 32% of white women. More than half of black women consider it very important for a husband or partner to be well-educated, compared to only 28% of white women. Half of Black women say that financial stability should be an important precondition for marriage, but only a quarter of white women admit to feeling that way.
Maybe that’s why new research from Yale University indicates that “Black men are more likely to marry outside of their race, and black women are more likely to marry outside of their education.” Compared to their single contemporaries, married African American men make more money and are happier and healthier. To promote stable Black marriages, society must enable Black men to achieve more education and acquire better employment opportunities. Black men are generally only half as liable to be hired as others, and they are less well paid. Advanced schooling and professional work experience not only make men more attractive nuptial partners, but also marginally protected from the risks of incarceration and racial violence.
Churchgoing can also be encouraged as a worthy habit of Black men. Brad Wilcox’s and Nicholas H. Wolfinger’s book, Soul Mates: Religion, Sex, Love and Marriage Among African Americans and Latinos, posits that Black male worshippers are significantly less vulnerable to what the sociologist Elijah Anderson has called the “code of the street”: the attitude of inevitable violence, criminality, and the perceived need to defensively intimidate by one’s demonstrated strength. These men are statistically less susceptible to incarceration, and more likely to be engaged in studies or paid work than their peers, all of which predicts higher incomes for young churchgoing Black men later in life.
Churches that respect their men’s employment with jobs ministries, or merely by sharing information among members regarding existing work opportunities, seem to have the strongest communities of committed men. The moral of church offers Black men a sense of dignity, purpose, and inspiration. Church-attending Black men also are highly valued by their wives, more than a third of whom describe their relationships with their husbands as “excellent.” And isn’t this what we all want, to be able to meet, marry, and live happily ever after?