Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Black-White Differences in Middle Class Women's Family Formation Opportunities

Friday, November 13, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Dawne Marie Mouzon, Rutgers University
By far, the most important demographic change in the social institution of marriage over the past 50 years or so is the dramatic decline in the prevalence of marriage.  Roughly 72% of all Americans were married in 1960 but only slightly more than half (53%) of all Americans were married in 2008 (Pew, 2010).  This decline was also demonstrated among Whites; seventy-four percent of Whites were married in 1960 but only 56% were married in 2008. Latinos exhibit similar patterns (72% and 50%, respectively).  The marriage decline has been far steeper among Blacks than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States. Almost 61% of Blacks were married in 1960 but this figure dropped to 32% by 2008 (Pew, 2010).  Blacks also experience higher divorce rates and lower remarriage rates than Whites (Bramlett & Mosher, 2002).

Scholars and the public have understandably been concerned about the universal marriage decline.  After all, marriage historically provides myriad benefits to families. Individuals who are married have better physical and mental health, more social integration, have higher household incomes, accumulate more wealth, and raise children with more positive health and social outcomes than those who are unmarried (Waite & Lehrer, 2003; Dupre, Beck, and Meadows, 2009).  Because the marriage decline has been most amplified among Blacks, greater scrutiny has been directed toward this group in an effort to understand the accelerating marriage decline among Blacks.

I present primary mixed methods data collected from roughly 600 single middle-class Black and White women regarding their health, mental health, quality of social networks, and perceived opportunities for marriage and motherhood. The overarching objective of this project is to paint a picture of this growing demographic population, many of whom will require non-conventional forms of economic and public policy support with regard to parenting and caregiving across the life course.  I end with policy implications and suggestions for future research to address this oft-overlooked form of inequality in the United States.