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The Rarely Recognized Route into the Black Middle-Class: Staying Single and Living Alone

Black Middle-Class: Staying Single

When you think about people who have achieved middle class status (or higher), maybe what you envision are married people with children. Numerically, though, marriage has been waning for decades. Just about every new Census report shows that proportionately fewer adults are married, compared to the year before.

The decline in marriage has been steeper for Blacks than for other racial groups. That has led to some hand-wringing about the status of the middle class. If rates of marriage are dwindling, does that mean the Black middle class is shrinking, too?

Sociologist Kris Marsh and her colleagues thought that scholars and pundits were missing something by focusing so intently on married couples. Maybe, they suggested, one route into the middle class (and beyond) was to stay single and live alone. It was, in a way, a radical idea, particularly when considered in light of the insistence by “marriage fundamentalists” that getting married is perhaps the most important way to escape poverty. (Take a look at the April 2019 report by the Family Story think tank, “The case against marriage fundamentalism: Embracing family justice for all.”)

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