AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
We've been digging into findings of a survey of African-Americans' views on communities, their finance and dating. The survey was conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. We talked to more than a thousand men and women over the age of 18. One finding of note: More men than women said they were looking for long-term relationships.
But as Christopher Johnson reports, it turns out that men and women mean different things when they say long-term.
CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON, BYLINE: The numbers go like this: very few women - just a quarter of those surveyed - said they were looking for long-term relationships, and nearly twice as many black men said they were looking to go long-term.
KRISTIN MCDONALD: (unintelligible)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You know they're not.
JOHNSON: I lay the data on Kristin McDonald and her black women's book club, gathered at a restaurant in Brooklyn. They're all in their 30's, mostly single. And to every woman here, the term long-term relationship equals a prelude to marriage. That's the lens McDonald used to interpret the survey numbers.
MCDONALD: I think that a lot of men think that they want to get married. I think men see it as a sense of accomplishment. Like, once I get married, I've checked something else off the list of the things that I want to accomplish in my life.
JOHNSON: Okay. But then, why are so few women looking? McDonald says a lot of her girlfriends were raised by single moms. Marriage wasn't modeled in their homes, and today it seems like a realm beyond possibility.
MCDONALD: Who wants to say they want something that they don't feel like they'll ever achieve? It just makes you feel like, damn, you know?
JOHNSON: So some black women just throw in the towel, says Dannette Hargraves, who is single, but wants to go the distance with someone.
DANNETTE HARGRAVES: Some people give up, like, I'm never going to get married so whatever. I'm never going to find a guy who has a job, who makes as much money as I do, who can live to my - who's cute, that I can't pick up and spin around.
ROBERT BLENDON: The African-American community that we interviewed report a lot of financial insecurity about things that could go wrong in the future - losing jobs, not being able to pay medical bills, et cetera.
JOHNSON: Robert Blendon co-directed the survey. He teaches at the Harvard School of Public Health. He says African-Americans are more likely than whites to want financial security in their long-term partners.
BLENDON: And it's been reported a number of times, on the average, African-American women are staying in school longer, for lots of reasons, than men. That also affects the choice of a long-term partner.
JOHNSON: And what do black men think of the survey numbers?
JOHNSON: A group of guys, all 30-somethings, are sitting in a pub in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Milton Appling is single and looking for something long-term.
MILTON APPLING: A long-term relationship means headed towards marriage or as a final step, as opposed to X years, and we'll see what happens. Yeah, that's very different. You know, men in general when they hear that term do not necessarily mean marriage. Marriage is marriage.
BROOK STEPHENSON: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I think they may not necessarily have a good view of marriage, you know.
JOHNSON: Brook Stephenson, also single and searching for a girlfriend, says although guys may steer away from marriage, many are still enthusiastic about long-term relationships.
STEPHENSON: They may just not have found a woman they feel that strongly about. They want to be with her, but no one ever said anything about marriage. They just want to be with her, you know what I mean? For however long that rides, you know?
JOHNSON: It's important to note this, too. The majority of both sexes, 57 percent, said they were not looking for long-term relationships. Survey co-director Robert Blendon says that figure could have some real implications for the future of black families.
BLENDON: As generations move forward, there are going to be less long-term relationships, and it will shape what communities look like for the next few decades if people don't develop long-term partnerships here.
JOHNSON: Back at the beer garden in Crown Heights, Serge Negri says he's on the path to a long-term relationship. He's found someone he really likes and things are getting pretty serious.
SERGE NEGRI: So I'm trying something new. I'm enjoying it, but it's not easy. It's been six months, so, you know, we're at one milestone. So, no more questions about long-term relationships.
JOHNSON: But the guys did keep talking about long-term relationships for more than an hour. For NPR News, I'm Christopher Johnson.
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