Marriage Doesn’t Automatically Fix Anything
Contrary to popular belief, marriage is not a panacea. Conventional wisdom dictates that if women just married and stopped having all of those out of wedlock kids, the black community would be okay. Problems solved or at least on the way to being solved. The problem with this way of thinking is it overlooks some very basic facts:
1. Lack of marriage isn’t the problem – Lack of economic opportunity is
What comes first: marriage or a job? The answer is: a job. There are large swaths of the black community, black males in particular, that are chronically underemployed or unemployed. The reasons behind this chronic unemployment is best left for another blog post, but the results are these men aren’t marriage material. Women won’t marry men who can’t hold down a well-paying job and by well-paying I mean above minimum wage. The greatest factor on whether a lower class/working class woman will marry her child’s father is if he has a job that will bring in a middle-class income.
Now you may argue why are women having babies from men who aren’t marriageable, they should just keep their legs closed and hold out for better. The reality however is that people meet, date and marry within their socioeconomic class. If these women weren’t dating and mating with these men who would they date and mate with? Are we going to suggest that a certain class of women (which make u the bulk of the black community) should not have children…ever? Are we going to penalize women because the many men in their class tier aren’t husband and/or father material?
2. Partnering while poor is difficult and doesn’t prevent your children from suffering the same ills as their out of wedlock peers
This is the one no one talks about when their touting the need for marriage in the black community. Kids who are born to poor married parents suffer the exact same ills as those kids who are born out of wedlock. If marriage was such an an inoculation to issues such as dropping out of high school and teen pregnancy than kids who were born poor, but to married families, would do better than their single parent counterparts. The reality is they don’t. The reason being it’s their socioeconomic status is the problem not their marital status.
Not only that, but marriages among the poor/working class have a much higher divorce rate than other socioeconomic brackets. Partnering while poor is difficult. The constant stress of money takes its toll on the marriage. So even if you do marry, have your child, there is greater likelihood that you will be divorced and end up as a single parent anyway. No one seems to talk about that aspect of marriage. People do divorce…then you’re a single parent…now what?
3. Among college-educated women who are working less than 10% of them live in poverty
The best thing that can be done for a low-income woman is not to have her marry her baby daddy, but to increase here earning potential through education and job training. Marriage to a low-income man does nothing to boost her lot in life, but can add stress and possible domestic violence issues because of the stress of having little money has on the marriage. However, education and job training greatly increases the likelihood she can create a better life for herself, her children and by moving up the socioeconomic ladder also increases the likelihood she can meet a marry a qualified partner.
So, as you can see, marriage really isn’t the answer, at least when it is not accompanied by economic stability. Saying “I do” is no guarantee that your kids are going to grow up and live happy healthy, middle-class lives. To really get marriage back on track, particularly in the lower classes you’d have to fix the economic problems first and then and only then can you begin to tackle the other issues that hamper marriage in the black community.
I do not think that marriage is a cure all for what ails the black community. However, to say that African Americans need to reconsider its attitudes toward marriage would be to make the understatement of the decade. Children of married households tend to have more education, have a greater likelihood of becoming homeowners and have a lower chance of being victims of abuse. These benefits can not be written off, either. A lot of men who are economically stable are shallow, cruel and basically the kind of people I would not entrust with walking a dog much less sharing my life. The way black people form families these days and the issues that result entail issues way deeper than having a job with benefits or getting a man with a job with benefits.
What you’re missing is a lot of that stability comes form being able to move out of neighborhoods where those negatives are factors. If you’re still living in the “hood” married or not your kids are subject to all the negatives we associate with single married-dom. My point isn’t that marriage isn’t important, but economic stability comes first..then marriage.
When you say that when two parents are economically stable to be married, the children are less likely to fall into societal and social ills. I however, disagree with that. I know a family in particular whom are considered middle-class, live in a wonderful neighborhood, and both parents are in the household. The problem with this family: their grown children don’t amount to ish, and the parents are two steps from divorce. I’ve heard of more single-parent households whom are broke as hell that raise productive and respectable children than those of two-parent households whom have both parents.
I’m not downing getting married and making sure that you are financial secure in doing so, but I say that when you are getting all of this, make sure your “home” is intact, and structure is in place. Otherwise you’ll be like all the other two-parent households whom are middle-class: ON THE BRINK OR ENDING IN DIVORCE.