A Few Answers and Many Questions About Race and Non-Marital Childbearing

September 14, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

This excellent article adds to our information about racial disparities in marriage and cohabitation rates. It appears that the black community may be stuck in a holding pattern in which children are born to single mothers, have little contact with their biological fathers and suffer the panoply of deficits associated with fatherlessness. Girls are then more likely to become pregnant as teenagers and boys more likely to be poorly educated and un/underemployed rendering them poor candidates for marriage. Unmarriageable males mean more children born to unmarried mothers. And the cycle continues.

That seems to be the case, and how it gets changed, I don’t know. The linked-to article offers nothing to encourage me to think it will change any time soon.

It reports on a new study. The authors of the study asked the likelihood of an unmarried mother marrying the father of her child within nine years after its birth. After all, the mere fact that a child is born to an unmarried mother doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a father actively involved in its life. But the uncomfortable truth is that the former tends to be strongly associated with the latter.

The authors found that about 17% of black women with nonmarital births married their child’s father within nine years, versus 37% for both white and Hispanic women.

About 70% of black mothers are unmarried at the time they give birth versus about 36% of white mothers. When the 30% of married black mothers are added to the 12% (17% x 70%) who marry their child’s father within the first nine years of the child’s life, that’s only 42% of black kids who ever live in an intact family. Of course many of those families break up after marriage.

In other words, the high nonmarital birth rate among black women coexists with low rates of subsequent marriage to the child’s father, a combination that adds up to a lot of black children not living full time with their biological fathers.

For white and Hispanic women, about 77% are either married when their child is born or marry the father within nine years.

About the same percentage of cohabiting black and white women eventually marry their children’s father. And cohabitation at the time a child is born makes a big difference in whether the child will have a stable father presence in its life.

Children have a better chance of growing up with both parents if they start out that way, and a greater share of white women having nonmarital births are in cohabiting relationships (rather than being lone mothers). Even though children born to cohabiting parents see their parents split before their ninth birthday three times as often as children born to married parents do, they still have a decided advantage over children born to lone mothers: over 70% of them still live with both parents at age nine. When women who give birth outside a residential partnership later marry, they are much less likely to be marrying their child’s father.

Meanwhile, the article reporting on the study raises the issue of the marriageability of young black men.

[The researchers’] analysis also showed that a shortage of marriageable black men (marriageability is eliminated by mortality, tremendously reduced by incarceration, and compromised by underemployment/unemployment) explained the racial gap in post-birth marriage, as did racial differences in attitudes among unmarried parents (e.g., higher levels of gender distrust among blacks). Therefore, it seems to me that when they concluded that cohabitation patterns were an important part of the story, they hadn’t taken seriously enough the idea that the same factors that dampen black marriage rates also dampen cohabitation rates—that unwed black mothers do not move in with their child’s father for many of the same reasons that they do not marry him.

I’ve always been suspicious of the “there aren’t any black men worth marrying” excuse for non-marital childbearing. After all, if death, prison and unemployment are the variables making black men of poor marriageability, that still leaves plenty who are. About 6% of black men are in prison or jail.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows here that black men put in quite a good showing in the workforce. About 68.2% of black men 20 years old and over are in the workforce, meaning they’re either working or looking for work. That’s more than five points higher than the white population generally whose workforce participation rate is 62.8%. Those figures are for August, 2017.

The employment rates are similar to the workforce participation rates, with 62.9% black men working versus 60.4% for the general white population. Yes, white men are more likely to be employed than black men, but the difference is only about eight percentage points, hardly enough to explain why 64% of white women bearing children are married, but only 30% of black women are.

No, we need something other than “black men aren’t marriageable” to explain the dramatic and dysfunctional rates of non-marital childbearing among black women.




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#blacks, #non-maritalchildbearing, #cohabitation, #blackmen

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