I originally read about this study over at Prometheus6.
Marriage eludes high-achieving black women
Many remain single and childless, according to new research
By Brian Alexander
updated 7:31 a.m. CT,
Thurs., Aug 13, 2009
Michelle Obama may have become an archetypal African-American female success story — law career, strong marriage, happy children — but the reality is often very different for other highly educated black women.
They face a series of challenges in navigating education, career, marriage and child-bearing, dilemmas that often leave them single and childless even when they’d prefer marriage and family, according to a research study recently presented at the American Sociological Society’s annual meeting in San Francisco.
Yale researchers Natalie Nitsche and Hannah Brueckner argued that “marriage chances for highly educated black women have declined over time relative to white women.” Women of both races with postgraduate educations “face particularly hard choices between career and motherhood,” they said, “but especially in the absence of a reliable partner.”
And there’s the rub. As noted in a recent Sexploration column, contrary to old media reports, most educated, professional women who want to marry can and do marry. But the picture is less bright for high-achieving black women because “marriage markets” for them have deteriorated to the point that many remain unmarried, the researchers found. Since these women also feel pressured not to become single mothers, they often go childless as well, the researchers found.
In the study, Nitsche and Brueckner used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey of 50,000 households dating back to the 1970s to tease out data points on race, gender, education, marriage and fertility.
Among black women with postgraduate educations born between 1956 and 1960, the median age at which they gave birth for the first time was 34 years old. This was about the same as it was for white women in the same demographic. But once white women reached their 30s, many more of them did give birth, often more than once. Many black women did not. The rate of childlessness among this group of black women rose from 30 percent for those born between 1950 and 1955, to 45 percent for those born between 1956 and 1960.
The rate of childlessness does moderate somewhat in highly educated black women born between 1961 and 1970. In this group, 38 percent have remained childless.
Beyond the personal interests of individual women, the trend is significant because “in terms of American society, this is one additional obstacle” to the broadening of the black middle class, Brueckner said. Fewer highly educated black people having children means that they cannot pass on those advantages and knowledge.”
This defeats the goal of affirmative action, argue some demographers. The idea behind assuring that blacks had access to higher education and graduate school was that after a generation or so, African-Americans would reach a kind of achievement parity after generations of suffering educational and career restriction. But if black women, who comprise 71 percent of black graduate students, according to the census data, do not have children, the rate of achievement reaches a kind of familial dead end.
Another Yale sociologist, Averil Clarke, who has written a soon-to-be-published book called “Love Inequality: Black Women, College Degrees, and the Family We Can’t Have,” sees the impact of this demographic trend in a slightly different, and more romantic, light. It’s not about passing on economic and educational advantages, though these concerns are valid, she said. It’s about love.
“I think this inequality can be construed around outcomes in love,” she said. “We are very caught up right now in [the controversy] over gay marriage. Well, what are we arguing about? Whether people can have these kinds of emotionally satisfying experiences and if not, if that is unequal.” She also believes that these demographic facts, and the reasons for them, constrain the sexuality of some African-American women. She has found that many more are celibate than are white women with similar education levels. “So for me it matters because love matters.”
Rest of article at link above.
One of the tags I wrote for this post was ‘ beating up on Black women once again’. I don’t want to beat up on Black women. I sure in hell am not going to beat up on women who are trying to better their lot in life by using the only means we’ve been taught helps us – EDUCATION. Since we come from a people that historically were KILLED if they tried to learn how to read, education has always been seen as ‘ the way’. The statue at Tuskegee is Booker T. Washington lifting the ‘ veil of ignorance’ – THROUGH EDUCATION.
I guess I fit the ‘profile’ of this piece – highly educated Black woman who is not married and has no children. Yes, I would like to be married. Yes, I would like to start a family. I have chosen for myself that if I am single and have a child, it will be through adoption, because I’m not going to be attached to a man, without benefit of marriage, for 20 years because of a child. I am nobody’s Baby Mama, and that is MY CHOICE.
There are a lot of possible issues here:
1. Pool of ‘ suitable’ mates
2. The imbalance between Black women and Black men in higher education
3. Inter-racial marriage as both problem and possible solution
4. What DOES it do to a community when a sizeable chunk of its most educated populace is NOT reproducing?
I wanted to open this up to JJP and see what you all think.
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