Is Marriage for White People?: How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone

Is Marriage for White People?: How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone

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by Ralph Richard Banks
     
 

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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

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Imani Perry
…a well-researched and probing discussion of why marriage rates are so low among black Americans. 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…an important book, and not only for those interested in African-American life.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
The Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, Banks points out that across classes black marriages are declining. In fact, black women are three times as likely as white women to remain unmarried. Why? As black women surge forward in terms of earnings and education, says Banks, they face marrying down or marrying out. Expect some controversy.
Kirkus Reviews

A scholarly account of African-Americans' encounters with the marriage gap.

In his debut (Law/Stanford Law School), Banks explores the marriage gap between African-Americans and whites, concluding that fewer African-Americans marry and stay married due to "the changing conception of marriage, and the changing educational and economic positions of men and women." Add to this the "numbers imbalance" between the wide array of eligible African-American females and an African-American male population in short supply—an unevenness Banks attributes to incarceration, interracial marriage and a lack of economic opportunities for black men. Banks argues that while many African-American women seek out highly educated African-American men, these same men are statistically more likely to date women outside their own race, prompting the pool of prospective suitors to dwindle further. As a result of this imbalance, many African-American men find little incentive to engage in a monogamous relationship: "Why cash in when you can continue to play?" The author writes that "[b]lack men maintain nonexclusive relationships for the same reason as other men: because they can." Banks tempers his statistically driven arguments by weaving in intriguing personal interviews. This technique, both quantitative and qualitative in its approach, provides the groundwork for a brave and convincing argument—one that reveals a startling trend in the decline of African-American marriages.

A triumphant work that demystifies the intersection between compatibility and color.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780452297531
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/25/2012
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
342,520
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.67(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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