Another ‘Black’ Trend Goes Mainstream

A few weeks ago the Pew Research Center came out with interesting data about married women and their earnings. Apparently, they’ve outpaced their husbands in terms of education and salary growth. That means we are earning more money at a faster pace than our beloved ones, even if the absolute numbers say we still earn less.

The underlying theme, of women gaining economic status in their marriages and presumably their households, did not surprise me. Among blacks, women have always been major contributors to the family finances. My mother was single while she raised me. Even during a brief five-year marriage, she ‘wore the pants’. She earned more money and had a better education than her husband. The same holds true for several aunts, cousins and friends. I told Hubby about my idea to write about this topic for my blog. As always, he downplayed the racial element, saying it’s not just a black experience. Lower-income white women, he said, have probably always contributed to the family’s finances. In a broader sense, all the new research really means is that we are all earning less money. The latter was his swipe at some of our country’s social and tax policies. Sensing a political skirmish, I shifted subjects: What should we make for dinner, dear?

The Pew Research Center’s findings on women bringing home the bacon is the second big trend in the black community that has gone mainstream, if you ask me. The first is single parenthood. I remember being a bit unique among my friends at church and school because my parents had never been married to each other, and my mother raised me without my father. Single parenthood used to be blamed for a host of social dysfunctions. As time passed, I’ve noticed that derogatory terms like “baby mama” or “baby daddy” have become so common that it’s no longer a big deal for children to be born out of wedlock. It really became acceptable as more middle-class and even upper-middle-class white women began raising kids without the man and the ring. I guess we have Murphy Brown to thank for some of that, huh?

I must admit that although I personally have no hang-ups about women with stable professions and finances choosing single parenthood, there are far too many single mothers in the black community. On any given day, I can look around my hometown and the city where I live now and see dozens of underaged girls pushing their kids around in strollers. They are kids themselves, so how can they possibly have enough wisdom to do a good job of nurturing and guiding the next generation of men and women? I don’t know. All I can do is try to prevent that travesty from happening in my family. So with my little sister, who will be 17 in March, I often tick off the only acceptable order in which her life’s milestones should come: degree, job, money in the bank, her own place and then she can have a baby!

Among the Pew Research Center’s other findings:
• Among adults aged 30 to 44 more women than men have college degrees.

• The median household income rose 60% between 1970 and 2007 for unmarried women, but increased by only 16% for unmarried men.

• In 1970, 20% of wives had more education than their husbands. In 2007, that figure went up to 28%.