NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 28, 2005

Marriage benefits black families and can even make a difference in whether a family with children lives in poverty, but has little or no impact on a couple's health, according to a new study.

These benefits, however, are not always evenly distributed within the black family. It appears that men and children -- especially boys -- are helped more from marriage than women, said Linda Malone-Colon, co-author of the study released this week by the Institute of American Values (IAV).

The IAV researchers reviewed 125 social science articles and national survey data on how marriage affects black families. They found:

  • On average, married black men and women were wealthier and happier than their unmarried peers.
  • Economically, having a spouse -- and often a second income -- brought substantial dividends.
  • One study reviewed in the report found that family incomes of black single parents (usually mothers) grew by 81 percent when they married.

"When African-American boys live with their father in the home -- particularly their married father -- they typically receive substantially more parental support," the report said. As a result, black boys of married parents tend to do better in school and markedly are less likely to become delinquent.

However, in the area of health -- where marriage usually brings strong benefits to married couples -- data was meager and inconclusive.

"Our research finds that marriage brings small health benefits to black men and none to black women," say the researchers.

The state of the black family concerns many scholars. Census data show that only 34 percent of black families are headed by married couples. This is a substantial reversal from 1950, when almost 80 percent of black families were headed by married couples.

Source: Cheryl Wetzstein, "Marriage found to improve blacks' lives," Washington Times, October 26, 2005.


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