Over the last few decades the media and Hollywood have had an obsession with the singleness of black women. The unlovability, attractiveness, and overall character of the black woman is constantly being debated. Interestingly enough, everyone seems to have a voice in the conversation except for the black woman herself.
I am a single black woman. Recently, I was in a room on Clubhouse titled, ‘Why Are Black Women Disproportionately Single’? I’m smart enough to know that the headline was meant to be controversial. As a relationship expert, with 10+ years of experience in the dating industry, I’m also smart enough to know that it’s not true.
Accurate or not, it got me to thinking about the commonly mentioned statistics concerning the black woman’s singleness. The popular doom and gloom keywords that people often Google when making a case against that black women will be single forever are:
- Black women are the least likely to be swiped on according to OkCupid
- Black women are least likely to be married according to Pew Research
- Black women are the least desirable according to research.
As a single black woman I take these misrepresented statistics personally. None more so than the often quoted statistic that 42% of black women are single.
This percentage became an explosive topic when ABC News ‘Nightline’ made it the focus of a primetime segment citing that forty-two percent of U.S. black women have never been married, double the number of white women who’ve never tied the knot.
The program was the catalyst to a flurry of criticisms, opinions, and the rise of Steve Harvey as a dating expert. This report followed a story The Washington Post had run and one run a few months earlier from MSNBC about the dwindling marriage prospects for black women.
It continued to be discussed on NPR, UPI, CNN and was even tackled by Oprah in 2007. The public seemed unable to wrap their minds around this harrowing statistic. Fast forward nearly 15 years laters and confusion still lingers. Many experts and non-experts alike seemed perplexed by the question: Why are so many black women single?
What The Numbers Say
While the numbers sound daunting, when put into context they make perfect sense. It’s simple math. A high percentage of black women are unmarried compared to their counterparts but that is literally only half of the story. What the media, Clubhouse experts, Steve Harvey, and wack rappers everywhere seem to conveniently leave out are black men.
Did you know that 51% of Black men in America are single? Probably not. When this statistic is added into the narrative it makes perfect sense. It’s just math.
As an underreported and under researched group in America, finding data on Black men is difficult. If the studies aren’t related to crime, incarceration rates, education, or joblessness as it pertains to the state of those categories as a whole, it likely doesn’t exist.
Marriage has declined across races and ethnicities, but the trend is more pronounced for some. The marriage rates for white, black, and Hispanic Americans have fallen roughly 5, 8 and 9 percentage points, respectively, since 1990.
The shift is particularly noticeable among black and Hispanic people. In 1990, 43% of black men had never been married. In 2019, it was 51%. This begs the question, why are so many black men disproportionately single compared to other races? Even though they make up a little less than half of the Black population they make up the majority of the race that are unmarried.
When this statistic is mentioned it’s easy to brush it off as just an arbitrary number.
Unmarried, as most researchers classify as single, doesn’t mean single as it’s labeled in layman’s terms. A single black man is someone who chooses to be single, who is a bachelor having fun, or a playboy. A black woman who is single is a tragedy.
The Unmarried Black Man
In February, Ebony magazine in partnership with QuestionPro released their own study on the state of black relationships. The survey consisted of approximately 700 subjects black men and women, from various backgrounds.
Nearly 300 African-American males, whose numbers were spread evenly across educational and financial demographics, participated in the survey. Nearly 350 participants were female, and a plurality (79 percent) self-identified as Black/African-American also representing a diversity of educational and financial backgrounds.
The study found that of the male participants 54% had never been married, and 31% were currently married. Of the women, almost half (49%) of them had never been married; 34% were currently married.
Think about what this means. The research group consisted of more married black women than men. So who really has the problem?
Black women are more likely than black men to be married in America yet, we focus on the struggles of black women as if their singleness is some catastrophic phenomenon. The majority of black women in the US predominantly date black men, with only 12% of the population marrying interracially, the smallest group amongst all races.
The contributing factor to why black women are single is the lack of quality black men to date and marry.
To explain the mathematical breakdown further first, it must be understood that there are more black women than black men. Second, black men are much more likely to go to prison than other racial groups. Third, black men are also more likely to lose their jobs resulting in underemployment.
Furthermore, because black men are more likely than any other racial group in America to go to prison or lose their jobs, even when a meeting between black men and women takes place it is not likely to convert into marriages.
What Is The Solution
Often times black women are prompted to consider interracial dating. It might seem like a betrayal to the black family to some, but it’s really a way to play the numbers game. When it comes to the mathematics of dating and marriage, black women have been dealt a very tough hand.
There simply aren’t enough black men to go around.
When you factor in gender ratios, sexual orientation, education, income level, parenthood, and ‘marrying out’ the probability of finding a black man that meets the basic criteria of marriageability according to the Wilson Thesis is slim. Let’s ignore basic compatibility.
For a black woman who wants to be married the solution should be radical. Unlike other racial groups, who largely date interracially, doing the same is just one solution to the problem. Consider that Asian women are the largest group of married women and are also the group most likely to marry someone of a different race.
Regardless of how any black woman decides to orchestrate her love life, it will take more work, personal dedication, and let’s face it (prayer or manifestation) than her non black counterparts. Ultimately black women are faced with a unique dating landscape. One that can only be navigated through purpose and intention.