Why black women stay put

Posted on April 7, 2013 by

When anyone brings up black/white interracial marriages, most people think of those involving black men and white women, but what about the other half? What about marriages, such as my own, involving a black woman and a white man?

According to Pew’s 2010 survey, nearly 1-in-10 new black brides married someone of a different race, with most grooms in these weddings being white, tendency strongly increasing, at the same time that black marriage rates are decreasing. So, of the ever-shrinking number of black marriages, an ever-growing number of those marriages involve black women marrying white men.

Many would say, “But such marriages are doomed to failure because of high interracial divorce rates!” but that doesn’t match reality. In fact, according to a survey done in 2008 by the National Council on Family Relations, “White husband/NH Black wife couples were 44% less likely to divorce than White/White couples.” That gives them, by far, the lowest divorce rate of any couple constellation surveyed.

How can that be? Well, an OK Cupid survey from 2009 might suggest an answer: according to their number-crunchers, black women were the most likely to reply and the least likely to receive a reply, and white men were the least likely to reply and the most likely to receive a reply. In other words, they are at opposing ends of the SMV spectrum for their sexes.


And what answer does this suggest? In a BW/WM scenario, the respective races of the spouses — quite separate from any other qualities they might possess, such as good looks or wealth — put the husband in a position of social power he does not have in any other type of marriage. Black women simply do not have a large fan club, and deep down they know it and calculate their unpopularity into the risk assessment of whether or not to divorce and “try again” with a new husband. Even if a black women is unusually good-looking, elegant and well-raised, devout, educated, etc. she’s still black and she knows that her overall sexual status is devalued merely by association with other black women, just as white women can be total butterfaces and still score a 5.

Once you add in other factors that make white husbands unusually desirable in comparison to men of other races, such as: his height and muscle mass, wealth, education and intelligence, parenting skills, employment opportunities, faithfulness, lack of illegitimate children, health, social aptitude, the non-existence of a criminal record, and social status… the disparity just grows and grows. Obviously, white men don’t get the highest scores on all of these factors, but they do score highly in all areas and are the highest in numerous areas like height and social status.

Divorce entails a certain amount of opportunity cost — giving up the bird in the hand for the bird in the bush. But what if you aren’t really sure that there is a bird in the bush or that such a bird will match the quality of the one you’re already holding? Well, then you stay put. And that’s precisely what black women do.

But more than that, the disparity makes black women less smug and dismissive of their husbands. They feel like they “lucked out” and they are therefore more inclined to be submissive and appreciative. They are at a societal disadvantage to their husbands, which puts them in a more traditional frame of mind, and actually turns the marital dynamic on its head. Although black wives are the least likely to leave, they are also probably the women white men are the least likely to run away from because they are unusually appreciative of their husbands.

There might just be a lesson for other women in that.

Posted in: Gender Dynamics