Dating While Black Meets Dateonomics

23 Sep

daddyslittlegirlsI mentioned that I just finished Dateonomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game by Jon Birger. The book reminded me a lot of Ralph Richard Banks’ Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects EveryoneThe books are similar in that they closely examine the lack of “marriageable” men and include suggestions on how women should navigate “the man deficit” as Birger calls it. Although Birger doesn’t specifically focus on the black community like Banks, he does highlight some trends within the black dating market. Early on, Birger mentions the high disparity of women and men attending Howard University.

[The gender ratio at] Howard University in Washington, DC is 69:31. Some of the most extreme college gender gaps are found at historically black institutions like Howard. Indeed, when it comes to gender gaps and their impacts, the African American community is the proverbial canary in the coal mine.

A ratio of 69 (women) to 31 (men) translated into a percentage means that there are 122% more women than men at Howard! Insane. In Is Marriage for White People?, Banks claims that the decline of marriage within the black community is a precursor to what will be experienced in white America echoing Birger’s “canary in the coal mine” idiom.

Birger has five suggestions for single college-educated women seeking a spouse. One of which includes marrying a man with lesser education. According to Birger,

Such parings are already commonplace in the African American community, where the college gender gap is extreme. According to NCES [National Center for Education Statistics], 112,898 African American women graduated from four-year colleges in 2011, versus 59,119 African American men. As a result, educated African American women who wish to marry within their own race have little choice but to consider dating less educated African American men.

Black pop culture reflects this demographic reality. Beyonce (who grew up in a wealthy Houston suburb) makes dating down sound downright sexy in songs such as “Suga Mama” and “Upgrade U.” And mixed-collar relationships are a staple of Tyler Perry movies: In The Family That Preys, Havard-educated Andrea is married to hunky construction worker Chris, and in Daddy’s Little Girls, romance blooms between attorney Julia and muscle-bound Monty. Cleveland matchmaker Tammie Collins, who is African American, told me that mixed-collar pairings were “definitely” more common among her black clients than among white ones. A 2010 Pew Research report reflected the same reality: 33 percent of African American women were married to men with less education, compared to 28 percent of all American women.

Birger and Banks differ in that Birger advocates dating down while Banks is a proponent of dating out i.e., dating interracially. I’d argue that the risks of dating down are higher for black women than for white women. Can we afford to date down? And at what cost? Let me be clear, I would date a man with less education. But he’d have to be gainfully employed and able to stimulate me intellectually. I don’t care for dolts whether they be degreed or not.

Overall I found Birger’s book informative and affirmative. It’s not you ladies, it’s the gender ratio. Gender ratios vastly impact the behavior or men and women in variant dating markets. According Birger, “males invest more effort in finding and keeping a mate when females are in short supply.”

Lastly, here are Birger’s tips for single college-educated women seeking marriage:

  1. Make gender ratios a consideration when choosing a college.
  2. Be aware that holding out is a risky marriage strategy for college-educated women.
  3. Your workplace is part of your dating ecology, so choose your career judiciously.
  4. Go West, Young Woman. [Generally speaking there are more single men out west.]
  5. College-educated women should consider expanding their dating pool to include lesser-educated men.
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4 Responses to “Dating While Black Meets Dateonomics”

  1. TheGirl December 18, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

    I read Banks’ book and I’m a fan (from an economics point he makes a good argument) but I haven’t read Birger, but already I can see the flaw based on your analysis. In our society, social mobility is largely depended on education (the more education you have, the more earning potential). Thus, when Banks ask, “If Black women can afford to date down.” In the long term, this hurts the Black community in terms of social mobility. Each generation is suppose to do better than the last, but today -a lawyer or doctor can’t be the sole breadwinner (not anymore, inflation!!) so how much can high school graduate or GED contribute to the bills? Dating down will create stagnation in the Black community. Especially, even if the Black woman is a Harvard educated professional, chances are she will still be earning much much less than her White and Male co-workers.

    • whatsablackgirltodo December 20, 2015 at 6:53 pm #

      Thanks for reading! Yes dating down can be especially detrimental for black women. And in all honestly, who wants a liability?

      I hope you enjoy England! I’m fascinated by all things British.

      • TheGirl December 21, 2015 at 6:54 pm #

        Thanks, the date is coming closer!! I guess I’ll report soon on the dating scene there!

      • whatsablackgirltodo December 29, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

        You totally should report on your new dating adventures. All the best to you!

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