Black Women: Successful And Still Unmarried

On the popular sitcom 'Girlfriends,' Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross) has a drink with Maya (Golden Brooks) i i

The popular sitcom Girlfriends, which ran for eight seasons, featured a group of four educated black women. Here, Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross) has a drink with Maya (Golden Brooks), whose marriage to her high-school sweetheart ended on the show. Getty Images hide caption

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On the popular sitcom 'Girlfriends,' Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross) has a drink with Maya (Golden Brooks)

The popular sitcom Girlfriends, which ran for eight seasons, featured a group of four educated black women. Here, Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross) has a drink with Maya (Golden Brooks), whose marriage to her high-school sweetheart ended on the show.

Getty Images

If you are a black woman with an advanced degree, there's a good chance you've never been married.

New research from Yale University suggests that highly educated black women are twice as likely to have never been married by the age of 45 as white women with similar education.

Hannah Bruckner, who leads the Center for Research on Inequalities and the Life Course at Yale University, says the disparity can be partly explained by a difference in dating preferences between some black men and women.

"Black men are more likely to marry outside of their race, and black women are more likely to marry outside of their education," she says.

Bruckner says that is compounded by tough competition for a smaller pool of highly educated black men.

Finding 'Mr. Right'

Kimberly Hill, 37, agrees that the market is slim. But Hill, who has a master's degree and heads up a political consulting firm in Detroit, says black women may need to redefine their ideal partner.

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"I believe there are a lot of prospects," Hill says. "Perhaps we need to change what we're looking for."

Hill says she is searching for a man with more than a degree. "I'm not only looking for someone who has attained a great level of achievement, but also someone who is spiritually grounded."

Niambi Carter, 31, has a Ph.D. and is an assistant professor of political science at Purdue University, admits that she has been hard-pressed to find a black mate with a similar level of education.

But she says it may be just as hard to find an interested man who is not black.

"Black women are not seen as marriageable by those outside of their race," she says. "We are not seen as adding status."

Carter says a persistent double standard adds to the challenge: Women are penalized for waiting to get married, while men are rewarded for their patience.

"Men tend to become 'distinguished' as they get older," Carter says. "Women just get old."

A Question Of Priorities?

Both Hill and Carter agree that finding a compatible partner is only part of the problem. They argue that black women are often encouraged to choose advanced education, but sometimes at the expense of personal relationships.

Carter recalls that when she decided to go to graduate school at age 21, marriage was not on her horizon.

"I thought either you do school or you do marriage ... but never thought of them as being able to co-exist," she says.

Hill takes it a step further. She points to a sense of obligation felt by many black women to break socioeconomic barriers that have hindered their predecessors. That pursuit, she says, can overshadow other goals.

"We may have become distracted," Hill says.

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