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Question #93262 posted on 08/24/2020 8:50 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

My friend said that Hispanic and black communities were less likely to have 2-parent stable families when compared to white families. Why is this?

-My Name Here


Dear friend,

Your friend is correct. This is a chart showing which percentage of children live in single-parent homes by race for the year 2018: 

children in single parent homes.png(source)

There are a number of reasons that I am aware of that explain this phenomenon. Keep in mind, like most things, this is a complex topic with multiple contributing factors. Also, there is an important caveat to your friends claim: 

Two-parent families are more likely to be stable, but being a two-parent family does not equal a stable family -- especially when marked by difficult circumstances. 

There is a concept in demographic studies called "Sex Ratios." Basically, when humans are born it's like 102 male babies: 100 female babies (this is an evolutionary thing because male babies are statistically slightly more likely to die at a young age from various diseases, syndromes, etc.) It decreases over time, and for the general population the ratio is about even when you reach age 30: 

sex ratio total.jpg(source)

Now, consider what happens when you include things like mass incarceration, violent deaths, police brutality, difficult life circumstances driving young men to suicide, environmental racism, poverty, and lack of health insurance (mostly due to poverty). Each circumstance contributes to higher death rates for populations who are disproportionately affected - especially Black populations. This next graph demonstrates that males from ages 10 to 40 have a much higher death rate than their female peers - but that death rate gap is even larger for young Black and Hispanic males - due largely to the things I listed above. 

death rate by race.jpg (source)

Now, if so many Black (and Hispanic) young men are dying at alarming rates, you can imagine what this does to the sex ratios. It's pretty obvious that the Black population especially has a sex ratio much lower than the general population (which you can see here - the racial composition map correlates heavily with the sex ratio map):

sex ratio by county.jpg (source

black pop by county.jpg(source)


 So, if the sex ratios are substantially lower, especially when you include the number of men incarcerated, there are just...less men to be married in stable, two-parent households. You can see the massive impact that incarceration and the War on Drugs had on Black families with this nifty chart that explains itself for you. Please keep in mind that mass incarceration and the War on Drugs does not mean that all the men in prison are guilty or would be "bad fathers." In fact, this era had the effect of imprisoning innocent people, and young boys for marijuana possession that would be considered legal in most states these days. 

war on drugs and marriage.jpg (source)

What is important to know is that marriage is something that people want, no matter what their race is. Life circumstances can make that much more difficult and unattainable for some. Economic stability is one of the most important factors in a stable family situation, so given the disproportionate effect of poverty on Black and Hispanic (and Native American) populations, marriage just doesn't always happen. In so many words, there is not a cultural deficit here. 

All of the things I listed that lower the sex ratio (incarceration, death, lack of health care and stable employment, poverty, etc.) all make marriages more difficult to start and maintain as well. These circumstances contribute to higher divorce rates - regardless of race. 

The big takeaway is that this isn't a game of "faults." It all comes down to systemic racism making it really difficult to establish a stable environment in which a marriage can begin and thrive.