Is marriage really for white people?

So reads the headline on this story, a first-person account from one of the network’s producers who was gathering information for their “Black In America” series. In it, she talks of her experience as an unmarried African-American woman who is hoping to be married someday. She also relates just one of the many startling statistics on the racial divide in marriage: 45 percent of African-American women have never been married, almost double the percentage of never-married white women.

Kay Hymowitz, who wrote the spectacular-until-the-final-essay Marriage and Caste in America, put it a bit more directly:

When [fellow marriage researcher Stephanie Coontz] assures us that marriage is not on the verge of extinction, she’s right – if you’re white and went to college.

The white, college-educated crowd is especially likely to marry. That is, likely to marry someone else who is also white and college-educated. That white, college-educated couple will then probably proceed to have children (marriage and childbearing remain more closely linked in the white, college-educated community than elsewhere), and the children will eventually become college-educated.

Presumably they will remain white.

The separation of marriage from childbearing is particularly dramatic in the black community, Hymowitz adds, with about 70% of births to African-American women now occurring outside of marriage.

Whatever your perspective on the issue, it is clear that marriage patterns are becoming more distinct among specific classes in the US, both ethnically and economically. Whether that means that “marriage” belongs on Stuff White People Like, I’m not sure.

There’s a great deal more research on marital trends in the masterfully-done State of Our Unions report, published annually by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers. Recent editions have highlighted specific trends for focus, including the future of marriage in America, life without children, and which men marry and why. All are good reading.