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Banks Outlines Racial Marriage Gap

Publication Date: 
November 09, 2011
The Stanford Daily
Catherine Zaw

Professor Rick Banks is quoted by Catherine Zaw of the Stanford Daily in regards to the process he used to write his book, "Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone."

Law professor Richard Banks said that twice as many African-American women graduate with a college degree as African-American men during his talk Tuesday afternoon discussing his recently published book, “Is Marriage for White People?”

He said his book looked at the declining rate of marriage among African Americans as opposed to other races, the increasing disparity in socioeconomic statuses between married couples and the minimal likelihood for black women to marry outside of her own race. According to Banks, less than ten percent of black women marry outside of her race.

“One part of my book is qualitative sociology studies and census data, and the other part is made up of in-depth interviews, making the reading personally entertaining, engaging and informative at the same time,” Banks said.

He said his book started as purely an academic project — an effort to see how big socioeconomic changes influence individuals. According to Banks, he went through legal, sociological and economic archives to conduct research, and was inspired by a Stanford alumna to further pursue his studies when she stated that his research related to her life very much.

“One in ten black men is in prison as we speak,” Banks said. “Black women have the smallest pool of potential partners within their race, yet black women are also the least likely to marry outside of their race, while women of other minorities, like Asian and Latinas, are three times as likely to do so.”


“I’m trying to unpack all the different things that keep black women segregated even as other groups are becoming increasingly integrated,” he said. “It’s a conversation about things that we don’t usually talk about.”

“African-American women want black babies because they want to uphold the black race,” he continued. “Because they have fear of their community and families not being accepting, and because the women don’t want to be confused as nannies of their different colored babies.”

Banks said, however, that by not excluding individuals who are of a different race, African-American women would have more options and, as a result, better matched relationships in terms of socioeconomic statuses and shared educational experiences — making their marriages more stable and more empowering.

“Rather than having the men be the ‘dealmakers’ and the women be the ‘dealtakers’ of a relationship, women can achieve relationships with men that are more to their liking,” he said. “This is the ultimate paradox. Some people see it as an abandonment of the race, but really the best thing individual women can do is to open themselves to those outside of their race.”


However, he said his book is “feminist because it is about enabling more black women to pursue a relationship that they want.”