Cover image for 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
Banks, Ralph Richard.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Penguin Group, [2011]

Physical Description:
viii, 289 pages ; 24 cm
The African american marriage decline -- Why don't black people marry? -- The gender gap -- The market for relationships -- Child bearing & rearing -- The relationship consequences of the marriage decline -- Marrying down -- The down vs. out choice -- The impediments to interracial relationships -- Why black women want black men -- Tired of marrying again -- The market for black women -- Why black women should cross the color line.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
HQ536 .B3225 2011 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
HQ536 .B3225 2011 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
HQ536 .B3225 2011 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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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 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.

Author Notes

Ralph Richard Banks is the Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, where he has taught about marriage, race, discrimination, and inequality since 1998. His writings have appeared in academic journals such as the Stanford Law Review and the Yale Law Journal and in popular publications such as The New York Times , the Los Angeles Times , and the Chicago Tribune . He lives in Palo Alto.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Choice Review

The black marriage rate has declined precipitously in the past half century. A gap has opened between black and white marriage rates, which was not true two generations ago. Similarly, a gap has opened between the out-marriage (that is, marrying outside their race) rate of black women and black men, which was also not true two generations ago. Banks (Stanford Law) uses social science research and his own interviews with about 100 middle-class African American men and women to try to figure out why. His main conclusion is that the imbalance in the relationship market is the main culprit. There are many more black women ready for marriage than there are black men. This lets black men, as a group, get the benefits of marriage, including children, without the obligations. Banks concludes that if black women were more willing to marry out, the power balance would become more even. In the end, more black men and women would marry each other. A solid, reasonable, and heartfelt book on a touchy subject. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. B. Weston Centre College

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1 The Marriage Declinep. 5
Chapter 2 What Has Become of Marriage?p. 17
Chapter 3 The Man Shortagep. 29
Chapter 4 The Marketp. 49
Chapter 5 What About the Children?p. 68
Chapter 6 Power Wivesp. 83
Chapter 7 Mixed Marriagesp. 103
Chapter 8 Beyond Race?p. 115
Chapter 9 Desirep. 129
Chapter 10 Fearp. 143
Chapter 11 Saving Black Marriagep. 170
Afterwordp. 183
Acknowledgmentsp. 191
Partial Bibliographyp. 197
Notesp. 245
Indexp. 279