Marriage squeeze

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The term marriage squeeze refers to an imbalance between the number of men and women available to marry in a certain society. The term was originally coined to illustrate the different patterns of marriage of men and women in 1960s United States,[1] where a striking divergence of ethnic differences in marriage has persisted into the 21st century: compared to white and Hispanic women, black women marry later in life, are less likely to marry at all, and have higher rates of marital instability.[2] Much attention has focused on the role of racial intermarriage.[3] According to data from dating services, African American women are the least likely to receive response from men of any race and ethnicity in the United States.[4][5] Census data from 2010 indicate that in the United States 24% of male Black newlyweds marry outside of their race, compared to 9% of female Black newlyweds.[6] A similar (albeit less pronounced) asymmetry exists in the United Kingdom.[7] A contrasting gender imbalance exists for Asian Americans, among whom females are twice as likely to marry outside their race than males.[6]

In China and India there are more men than women of marriageable age.[8][3] Age is a factor of special relevance in China’s male marriage squeeze, where a strict one-child policy—which had been introduced in 1979 with the intention to lower birth rates—entrenched a strong cultural preference for sons which is likely the cause of excess female child mortality and a higher than normal sex ratio at birth.[8]

Causes of the African American marriage squeeze[edit]

There have been a variety of suggestions to explain the patterns of marriage observed. These explanations should take account of wider trends in family structure.[2]

Economic Disadvantage[edit]

From the 1960s onward, first marital stability and later marriage formation became more strongly linked to the transition into stable employment for both men and women. African Americans have suffered disproportionate economic disadvantage, in large part due to the legacy of legal discrimination, which increasingly became an obstacle to marriage. The result has been racial inequalities in marital status in all education groups.[2]


As a category, African American men suffer from higher rates of incarceration, unemployment, and poor health than do their white counterparts in the United States. These conditions often make their lives unstable, and disqualify them from raising a home effectively, in effect branding them as "unmarriageable".[9] Rates of incarceration for marriage-age African American males are far higher than rates for females, further contributing to the male–female gap. As of 2002, 10.4% of all African American males between the ages of 25 and 29 were sentenced and in prison.[10] The African-American male–female disparity is highest between the ages of 25 and 29, when for every two African-American men, there are nearly three African-American women.[11]

Desire to "marry up"[edit]

There is a desire among educated women of all races to marry partners within or above their social and economic class;[12] when African American women restrict their marriage prospects to African American men, African American women risk either marrying below their socioeconomic class or not marrying at all, as African American women consistently achieve better completion rates in higher education than African American men do.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Akers, Donald S. (1967-06-01). "On Measuring the Marriage Squeeze". Demography. 4 (2): 907–924. doi:10.2307/2060328. ISSN 0070-3370. JSTOR 2060328. PMID 21318699.
  2. ^ a b c Raley, R. Kelly; Sweeney, Megan M.; Wondra, Danielle (2015). "The Growing Racial and Ethnic Divide in U.S. Marriage Patterns". Future Child. 25 (2): 89–109. doi:10.1353/foc.2015.0014. PMC 4850739. PMID 27134512.
  3. ^ a b Crowder, Kyle D.; Tolnay, Stewart E. (August 2000). "A New Marriage Squeeze for Black Women: The Role of Racial Intermarriage by Black Men". Journal of Marriage and the Family. 62 (3): 792–80. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.00792.x. ISSN 0022-2445. JSTOR 1566797. OCLC 49976459.
  4. ^ The uncomfortable racial preferences revealed by online dating
  5. ^ How Your Race Affects The Messages You Get[1]
  6. ^ a b Wang, Wendy (2012-02-16). "The Rise of Intermarriage: Rates, Characteristics Vary by Race and Gender" (PDF). Pew Research Center.
  7. ^ Lewis, Michael B. (2012). "A Facial Attractiveness Account of Gender Asymmetries in Interracial Marriage". PLOS One. 7 (2): e31703. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031703. PMC 3276508. PMID 22347504.
  8. ^ a b Guilmoto, Christophe Z. (2012). "Skewed Sex Ratios at Birth and Future Marriage Squeeze in China and India, 2005-2100". Demography. Springer on behalf of the Population Association of America. 49 (1): 77–100. doi:10.1007/s13524-011-0083-7. JSTOR 41408220. PMID 22180130.
  9. ^ Benokraitis, N. 2011. Marriage and Families: Choices and Constrainsts. Prenhall, NY.
  10. ^ Harrison, Paige M.; Beck, Allen J. (July 2003). "Prisoners in 2002" (PDF). Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin. U. S. Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-07-16. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
  11. ^ O'Connor, Vikki (February 2006). "Barriers to Marriage and Parenthood for African-American Men & Women" (PDF). Syracuse University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-02-27. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
  12. ^ Kalmijn, Matthijs (1993-09-01). "Trends in Black/White Intermarriage". Social Forces. 72 (1): 119–146. doi:10.1093/sf/72.1.119. ISSN 0037-7732.
  13. ^ Melendez, Michele M. (2004-04-25). "Fewer Women are 'Marrying up'". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2008-07-15.