Answer: It’s complicated. Although, the real question we should probably be asking ourselves is, “Is there really even an epidemic?”Ascribing solutions in search of a problem is like bragging about the surgery was a success, but the patient died. More on that later…
Yesterday, ClutchMagOnline ran a story titled, A Call to Action: Help Single Black Men Keep A Woman. This post was a new twist on an old theme – what is wrong with black people and why aren’t they getting married? The twist, in this instance, was to blame the lack of marriage in the black community on black men, instead of black women, as is usually the case.
As a writer, I respect the writing hustle. Sometimes you have to throw a cleverly titled post, followed up by equally talented one-sided un-objective prose. I get it. Every now and then you have to switch up your style and toss some blatant ratchetness into the environment for digestion or the people won’t listen to you, just ask Two Chainz. I respect the author’s, Demetria L. Lucas, right to express her opinion however she sees fit. That’s why I’m not going to bother to refute her opinions today. I plan only to dispute the facts she used to develop her opinions. Before we move forward, an excerpt from the original piece:
I’m concerned about Black men. I saw a statistic that found a shocking number– 73.1 percent— between the ages of 25 and 29 had never been married. And as I read and thought of the emptiness in their single lives, I wondered, why there are so few stories addressing this startling epidemic. I mean, there are far fewer Black women that are unmarried, and selfishly, all the concern is about them.
Look, I get it. Black stories about Black women and the “tragedy” of being single are popular. Advertisers want numbers to spend dollars, so stories like “Why Black Women are So #$@%ed Up”, which do record numbers for page views, comments, ratings, etc., keep getting written. Story after story highlights what Black women do wrong, how we could change this, stop that, blah, blah, blah. This is unfair to single Black men who need major help on keeping a woman.
Just last Friday, I read a story on BlackEnterprise.com entitled, “Why Many Successful Black Women Can’t Keep A Man”, the most recent in a long, long list of stories about why Black women are soo–oohhh single. I was troubled to find yet another article that continues to ignore these troubled men. How will Black men ever get and stay married, the only achievement in their lives ever worth celebrating or acknowledging, unless there is an active effort to also tell them how they are routinely failing at love and how they can someday become loveable?
Contrary to what is obviously popular belief, maintaining a relationship is not solely a woman’s domain…read more.
In the interest of full disclosure, later in the day an SBM reader told me that the Clutch piece was satirical – and it was an indirect response to an old article written by thrice-married Tracy McMillan, which some of you might be familiar with, Why You’re Not Married. That may very well be true, but what can I say…SBM needs page views too.
In Demetria’s piece, she found a “shocking” number of men between the ages of 25 – 29 had never been married, 73.1 percent to be exact. Interestingly enough, I too was shocked by Demetria’s shock, because if she had read the source of the very source she cited in her piece she would have found out two additional facts that would have made this shocking information less than shocking. Fact #1, 70.5 percent of black women in the same age range had never been married. Fact #2, at no point since 1890 to present date have black women ever married at a later age than black men. While close, as of 2010, the median age at first marriage for black women and black men was 30 and 30.7, respectively (FYI: it’s 26.4 and 27.8 for white women and men, respectively). As a result, looking at age groups from 25 – 29 doesn’t even tell half of the whole story when 30 is the median for both black men and women. I know things like facts and objectivity have no place on the Internet, but please bear with me. Since we’re off to such a great start, let’s use even more facts to see what else the US Census Bureau tells us about the state of black marriage, shall we?
Marriage facts on Black Men:
- From 1890 through 1950 the median age at first marriage for black men was lower than for white men.
- The percent of those age 35 and older who were never married was higher from 1890 through 1930 for White men than Black men, but by 1960, this had reversed, with Black men age 35 and over having a higher percent never married.
- By 1960, Black men had a higher percentage age 45 and over who had never married. As of 2010, 20 percent of black men and 9 percent of white men have never been married by age 45 and over.
Marriage facts on Black Women:
- After 1950, the median age at first marriage for black women was higher than for white women.
- Black women were more likely to have been married by age 35 than their white counterparts until 1970.
- The crossover happened in 1980, when 7 percent of black women had never married, compared with 5 percent of white women. By 2010, 20 percent of black women and 7 percent of white women had never been married by age 45 and over.
Overall US Census Bureau Conclusions:
- The median age at first marriage in 2010 for all races is the highest on record, but didn’t exceed the 1890 value until 1990.
- There was a sharp increase in the proportion never married for Black men and women since 1980 – the attributing factors of which warrant further investigation.
It seems more than a few people around the web have forgotten our youthful motto of days past, “reading is FUN-da-mental!” See how interesting facts can be? Fortunately, for those of you who aint about that reading life, The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center made a chart (based on 2001 census data). Pictured below:
As this chart shows – and I have said a million times before (like here and here) – there is no black marriage epidemic. Although, I do recognize that writing pieces on said epidemic, even if made up, guarantees page views and comments. There is an added bonus if you can find a new way to blame black men or black women for the epidemic without attributing the source of the problem to both, since, as far as I can tell, the two represent the same community of people and would likely benefit far more from working together than tearing each other apart, but what does WisdomIsMisery know. Further, despite all the vehemently derogatory rhetoric directed at one another, as I wrote about here, approximately 90% of both black men and women, when they do marry, will do so with another black woman or man. Go figure.
In closing, the issue is not whether or not black men and women get married, because they do. The two legitimate questions of interest are 1) why do black men and women marry later than every other race since, at minimum, 1950? 2) Additionally, although the overwhelming majority of black men and women will get married in their lifetime, why is this rate statistically and significantly lower than every other race until age 50? In my humble opinion, these are the questions that black men and women – those whom would like to be married one day – should be asking themselves. This is assuming we actually want to have a serious discourse about how best to solve the “problem.”
Of course, there is always the other option that so many websites, blogs, and news sites seem quite content with: wasting more years, characters, blogs, and news stories dedicated to scripted finger pointing at black men and women while every other race around us gets married. Clearly, this strategy has proven effective, right?