Thursday, May 22, 2008

Marriage and African American Men

The Institute for American Values' Center for Marriage and Families has some interesting data regarding the apparent benefits of marriage for African American men. These benefits include some of the following:

Employment and Earnings

"Married African American men are more likely to be employed than never-married or divorced men, and they work longer hours and earn higher wages than unmarried men with similar characteristics. These facts have been confirmed in the vast majority of economic studies exploring why individuals with similar and distinct characteristics have different earnings. Studies focusing on black men estimate that married men work two-and a-half weeks more each year on average and earn wages between 14 percent and 18 percent higher than never-married black men, while controlling for other differences between individuals."

Household Income and Assets

"Married African American men have higher household incomes than never-married African American men, hold higher levels of assets, and are less likely to live in poverty. Households headed by a married black couple earned almost two-thirds more than the average black household, and black men are 30 percent less likely to live in poverty once they marry. A 2004 study of racial and ethnic differences in home equity—the largest component of household net worth—found that household socioeconomic characteristics, including marital status and duration of residence, were the primary factor contributing to black households’ lower levels of housing equity relative to white households. If family structure and income were similar across black and white households, black households would reap an additional $20,000 in housing wealth. Since marriage is associated with higher household income and residential stability, much of this difference may be directly attributed to lower marriage rates among blacks."

Risky Behaviors and Physical Health

"Married black men are more likely to report excellent or good physical health, as opposed to fair or poor health. They are less likely to experience physical distress such as headaches, back pain, stomach or bladder problems, and limited upper or lower body mobility, and are less likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. As a result of their improved health overall, married black men are less likely to report being disabled or having limitations in physical and social functioning, work activity, or activities of daily living such as household chores, bathing, and dressing."

Social Interactions

"Married black men are more likely to have a variety of social relationships that provide emotional support and ethical accountability. Many studies have focused on the kinship model of family organization where an extended network of parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and non-biologically-related “fictive kin” actively participate in the everyday operations of the nuclear family. Scholars have suggested that these networks help offset the effects of low marriage rates among black Americans, as informal relationships between adult children and parents, uncles and aunts, and siblings may substitute for formal commitments between husbands and wives. Yet, quite to the contrary, a study measuring levels of financial, emotional, and child-care support provided by relatives among households with children in the National Survey of Black Americans finds that reported levels of emotional and child-care support are highest for married families. When socioeconomic differences between households are accounted for, married households are also more likely to receive financial support from relatives."

Read more about this here.

When I read this and similar research it deepens my appreciation of portions of Baha'i scripture that emphasize the profound spiritual and social significance of marriage and family life:

"And when He desired to manifest grace and beneficence to men, and to set the world in order, He revealed observances and created laws; among them He established the law of marriage, made it as a fortress for well-being and salvation, and enjoined it upon us in that which was sent down out of the heaven of sanctity in His Most Holy Book."
(Compilations, Baha'i Prayers, p. 104)

"Compare the nations of the world to the members of a family. A family is a nation in miniature. Simply enlarge the circle of the household, and you have the nation. Enlarge the circle of nations, and you have all humanity. The conditions surrounding the family surround the nation. The happenings in the family are the happenings in the life of the nation."
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 157)