Kay Hymowitz: Column on Marriage Flawed; Effect of Income Disparity on Marriage Rates in The United States Ignored

Kay Hymowitz, from the Manhattan Institute, wrote an opinion column linking persistent racial inequality towards Black people to lower marriage rates among Black people. A much better thesis for Ms. Hymowitz’s column is that racial discrimination continues to persist, as demonstrated by the disparity of income between White and Black people in the United States. Perhaps, therefore, the disparity in income between White and Black families may be having an effect on the marriage rate.

In her column, Ms. Hymowitz conveniently obfuscates a reason for the for the differing marriage rates between Black and White families–differing levels of wealth. Whites as a group make significantly more than Black families. In terms of median household income, Ms. Hymowitz noted that married Black couples have a median household income of $62,000 (which is 80% of the household income of White married couples ($77,500)). Additionally, Ms. Hymowitz states that the overall median income of Black households is 62% of that of White households.

The effect is made manifest when considering the difference between Black and White families’ net worth. According to David Shipler in A Country of Strangers (page 18):

Even Blacks and Whites with roughly the same income possess such different financial assets and real estate that placing them in the same class of material well-being, as the income statistics usually do, is misleading. The median net worth of those considered middle class ($25,000-$50,000 in annual income) is $44,069 for Whites and only $15,250 for Blacks. At all other levels, too, the asset gaps are much greater than the income gaps.

As a result, rather than show that the lower rate of Black marriage contributes to anti-Black racial disparity in the United States, the numbers actually demonstrate the more definite possibility that the significantly lower rate of income for Black people (the lower rate of income is a signifier of subtle race discrimination) may be having an effect on the marriage rate.