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Black women marrying later, studies show

Sabrennia Fountain says she gets tired of hearing friends and family members urge her to marry and start a family.

“I hear all the time I am not getting any younger and that they can’t wait until I get married and have children,” said Fountain, 40. “I often wonder why this affects them so much.”

Fountain, who works as an Administrative Assistant, said she tells people that she will meet her ideal mate “when it is time.”

“I also say a lot of you are married and are unhappy.  Stop trying to make me that way,” said Fountain.

Fountain is one of many African-American women who are over the age of 30 and unmarried.  Many said they face pressure from parents and older relatives to produce children.  Others said there is a stigma against African-American women who are not married.

African-American women wait to marry until they are older.  According to 2009 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 70.5 percent of black women between the ages of 25 and 29 in the United States had never married.  But the bureau found that although black women marry later, most do marry.  By age 55 and above, according to the Census Bureau, only 13 percent of black women had never been married.

Other agencies have also completed studies on black marriage patterns.  According to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which was quoted in an article in the Chicago Sun-Times, by the age of 30, nearly 18 percent of white women and 77 percent of Hispanics are married, but only 52 percent of black women are married by that age.

Many African-American women say there are good reasons to postpone marriage.

Cheryl Pugh, a Chicago therapist who counsels adults and children, said many African-American women wait to marry and start a family until they feel confident they can provide a secure home.  “Many African-American women are needing to take care of their own financial circumstances and have to make sure that their educational and financial affairs are putting them in the position to accommodate their needs,” said Pugh.

Pugh said people have many negative opinions about unmarried African-American women.  She offered some of those opinions:  “There must be something wrong with the African-America woman who is not married and has surpassed the 30 mark!” said Pugh. “This woman must have character flaws, be uptight, have her expectations for a partner too high or is frigid!”

In the African-American community, unmarried, childless black women are often stigmatized and scrutinized.

Brittney Yancy, 32, a professor at the University of Connecticut said she can attest to that.  She said some of the comments have “worn on my spirit.”

“More and more, I struggle with stressing out to finish my doctoral program so I can find a mate and have kids.  The stress does nothing but distract me more; further delaying my problem.” Said Yancy.

Yancy said she has had friends and relatives tell her, “Hurry up, you need a real job so you can start a family, you’re going to get too old to have kids.”

Asked if she feels criticism for being single, Nicole Toney said, “Yes, always!”

Toney, 30, Financial Analyst, said she tries to keep their comments in perspective.  She tells her friends and family “It hasn’t happened yet.  If it is meant to be, then it will.”

Fountain said, “I tell them it is not hard to get a man, but I don’t just want a man, I want the man for me.  I also tell them, when it is time, we will meet.”

Another hurdle in finding a spouse might be the disparity in numbers between black men and black women on college campuses.

According to an article in the New York Times, more black women earn college degrees than black men.

Fewer black men are on college campuses, suggesting that black women and black men are not physically in the same spaces in their 20’s, which leads to unequal footing educationally and professionally.

“I think many men are intimidated by a powerful, successful African-American woman if they are not very secure themselves, which makes it more difficult to find a viable partner,” said Pugh.  “The African-American women with this status will often settle for a partner who doesn’t have the same assets.”

“Those who are more secure and independent could care less about having a partner; [they don’t want] to settle and be miserable,” said Pugh.  The ability to wait until the right one comes along is greater, given that she has higher expectations and can take care of herself until she finds the right partner.”

Nevertheless, many black women say they want to marry and start a family.

“I would like to get married.  I would rather raise a family than go to a job every day.  I believe in having a career; however, raising kids and establishing a family means more to me,” said Yancy.

But finding the right partner is hard, Toney said.

“I have found that men over the age of 30 are skeptical about entering into long term relationships if they are not already engaged or seriously dating someone,” she said.

Yancy said it’s often hard to find a straight partner who has a professional career and no dependent children.

Some black women try not to worry about the difficulties of singlehood; instead, they focus on the benefits.

“I still travel a lot, that is a great perk.  I love going to the movies and I don’t have to worry about a babysitter or if my husband wants me to do something else,” said Fountain.  “Freedom, freedom, freedom!”

She added, “People automatically think you are unhappy or that you are out there trying to find a man—I believe you should learn to be content in whatever state you are in.”

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