Marriage and African-American Women
f—-yp Ithough marriage rates have been dropping / for several years now, there has been a signifi – U cant decline in marriage among African – American women (Tucker & Mitchell-Kernan, 1995). From 1970 to 1990, the percentage of African-American women over age 18 who were married went from 62% to 43% (Crowder & Tolnay, 2000). In 1990, only 35% of African – American women under the age of 35 were married. This change has been accompanied by a substantial increase in interracial marriage, especially between African-American men and non-African-American women. Are these events related?
Perhaps so. As more and more African-American men marry non-African-American women, this reduces the pool of available African-American partners for the African – American women. This is even more true for highly edu-
cated African-American women whose marriage prospects are most likely to choose interracial marriage. However,
when African-American women are asked which ethnicity they prefer their partner to be, the majority would prefer an African American (Wyatt, 1998).
African-American women, in general, often experience a shortage of marriageable men because African-American men have higher mortality and incarceration rates (Bennett et al., 1992). African-American men have also been found to have higher rates of unemployment, lower earnings, and lower levels of education than Caucasian men, which further reduces the numbers of appropriate African-American men for African-American women to marry (Tucker & Mitchell-Kernan, 1995).
Some researchers have proposed that rates have dropped because African-American women are reluctant to marry. However, the evidence doesn’t support this theory. African – American men, rather than African-American women, have been found to have the strongest reservations about marriage (South, 1993).
to the wonderful life I had in my marriage or have just lost all interest in romance. I meet quite a few young women and can see that they are attractive, and to someone else may be desirable, but I hardly give it a blink. (Janus & Janus, 1993, p. 8)
But people in this situation need not be discouraged. Today, more and more groups and organizations are being created to help divorced and widowed people ease back into the dating scene.
As couples age, one partner eventually dies, and the other may find him – or herself single again for the first time in many years. Even though many of these people are not interested in marrying again, they may still be interested in dating (Bulcroft & Bulcroft,
1991) . Some older couples decide to live with their partner instead of marrying. It is estimated that 4% of older couples live together (Chevan, 1996). This same study found that the likelihood that an older man will choose to date is predicted by his age and social involvement, whereas older women are influenced more by their health and mobility. Some older men decide to marry younger spouses (e. g., Paul McCartney and Heather Mills or Pierce Brosnan and Keely Shaye Smith). Later in this chapter we will discuss dating after the death of a spouse among the elderly in more detail (see the section “Marriages in Later Life”).