African-American Women’s Mate Criteria:
Eric P. Martin
Social Science 101
The research for this paper was to test the hypothesis: If the mate selection criteria among African-American women for education and income level was at parity or higher for their potential marriage partner, then this maybe a contributing factor to the decline in the rate for African-American marriages. The results of the questionnaire strongly suggest that the hypothesis could be correct for a particular age group of college educated, African-American women between the ages of 25-35.
Over the last several decades, the marriage rate for African-Americans has declined dramatically. The percentage of black women getting married dropped from sixty-two percent to thirty-one percent between 1950 and 2002 (Ebony, Nov. 2003). In 2001, the U.S. Census recorded 41.9 percent of African-American women never being married; twice the number of white women (Jones, Washington Post 2006). No matter what angle the data is viewed at, it’s becoming an alarming figure within the African-American community.
There are many theories from sociologist linking the reasons for the declines to the inequalities burdened on African-American men, the negative experiences of African-Americans growing up in a single family household, or the vast number of African-American women delaying marriage to pursue their own higher education goals.
To validate the hypothesis, Kristin Danielle Hamb’s thesis paper, “The Significance of Higher Education on the Racial Gap in Marriage Rates” was used. In 2001, the African-Americans student population was thirty-six percent for males compared to fifty-six percent for females. Hamb leans heavily on the data of University of Chicago’s sociologist and economist, Gary S. Becker. Hamb suggests that the marriage rate divergence is due to African-American women pursuing a higher education (Hamb 2009). The separating a culture seemed quite parallel to the observations of divergence displayed by the indigenous, semi-nomadic, Samburu women of Kenya. A social divide was created between the traditional Samburu women and the educated women after they obtained a general education level higher than their peers (Lesorogol, 2008).
Most women have a tendency to marry “up” (hypergamy). Women are seeking mates that are better educated and are/or are equally as financially stronger than themselves (Hannon, Ingoldsby, 2003 pp 12.) This seems to be a direct correlation between the declining rates of African-American marriages and the desired marriage partner for the African-American women as the odds are clearly not in their favor.
This survey was administered through the distribution of a Facebook survey, friends, and surveys given to students and faculty members of Harold Washington College. Only one participant of the surveys had a degree higher than bachelors. To give a more accurate picture, more post graduates could have been included into the survey. There were twenty-seven participants in this sample survey. Only one participant had a master degree which was excluded from the results to offer more accurate results.
The survey consisted of fifteen questions. Six of the questions were used to categorize all participants. Three were used only used as a divergence the nature of the questionnaire. Only two were used to validate or disprove the hypothesis.
The procedure of this survey was clearly research. The survey was distributed via Facebook, prior to several classes, and given and collected back from staff members of Harold Washington College within several hours. Everyone given the survey appeared to be of an African-American decent.
The results show African-American single women, between the ages of 25-35 who have obtained a bachelor degree place a higher value on potential marriage partners having parity or greater education and income as themselves. Older African-American women with advance college degrees and a higher income placed less importance on potential marriage partner’s education and income.
Only two participants of the questionnaire had advanced college degrees. A better analysis could have been obtained if more participants had master and doctorate college degrees. The distribution at graduate schools, as well as college faculty members could have offered better data results for analysis.
C. Future Research
Future research could be conducted in areas of single, unmarried African-American women over the age of forty. If the increasing trends remain, the number of unmarried, African-American women over forty will be a huge population within the African-American community.
Hamon, Raeann R.; Ingoldsby, Bron B. (2003). Mate Selection Across Cultures. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.
Jones, Joy. (March 2006). “‘Marriage Is for White People,” The Washington Post.
Kinnon, Joy Bennett (November 2003). “The shocking state of Black marriage: experts say many will never get married,” Ebony Magazine.
Lesorogol, Carolyn K., (Summer 2008). “Setting Themselves Apart: Education, Capabilities, and Sexuality Among Samburu Women in Kenya,” Anthropological Quarterly.