African-American Families
 
Estimated Number of Printed Pages: 5
 
TOPICS COVERED: This is a brief overview of key facts we've collected on blacks living in the United States. But we have much, much more elsewhere in The Factbook.
 
 
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Eight percent
of U.S. blacks age 30 and over live with grandchildren – twice the national rate of four percent, but the same as Hispanics(8 percent) and less than Pacific islanders (10 percent).
 
 
 
$30,355 –
Median household income for Blacks in the U.S. – which was 62 percent of the median for non- Hispanic White households ($48,977).
 
 
 
9.0 million
Blacks in the U.S. are in poverty.
 
 
 
U.S. Black women outnumbered Black males in every decade of the Twentieth Century.
 
 

"Although slave marriages and family ties lacked legal sanction, and owners were free to sell husbands away from wives and parents away from children, most African Americans married and lived in two-parent households both before and after emancipation. Fathers played a larger familial role than previously thought. The nuclear family received support from an involved network of kin. Indeed, the kinship system forged under slavery would continue to function in twentieth-century rural and urban communities as a source of mutual assistance and cultural continuity."
 
 

". . . and has rebutted the notion that the high incidence of single-parent, femaleheaded households among African Americans today is a legacy of slavery."
 
 

"During the seventeenth century, slaves had little opportunity to establish family units. Newly imported African slaves were often kept in sex-segregated quarters. In the Chesapeake colonies and the Carolinas, most slaves lived on plantations with fewer than ten slaves. These units were so small and so widely dispersed, and the sex ratio was so skewed (two women for three men) that it was difficult for slave men and women to find a spouse of roughly the same age. A high death rate compounded the difficulties slaves faced in forming families, since many slaves did not live long enough to marry or, if they did, their not live long enough to marry or, if they did, their marriages were brief."

 
 
"At the end of the seventeenth century, the number of imported Africans and the slave fertility rate increased sharply. These demographic developments gradually eased the imbalance of the sex ratio and permitted a growing proportion of slaves to marry. During the 1720s, the African American population became the first slave population in the New World to reproduce itself by natural increase."
 
 

"By the 1770s, slaves had succeeded in creating a distinctive African American system of family and kinship. To sustain a sense of family identity, slave children were often named for a parent or other blood kin or given a traditional African name. The strength of the slave family is nowhere more evident than in the advertisements eighteenth-century slave owners posted for runaway slaves. The advertisements reveal that one of the major reasons why slaves fled their masters' plantations was to visit spouses, children, siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. In Virginia, advertisements indicate that over one-third of all fugitives were attempting to visit relatives; in Maryland, the advertisements show that nearly half were seeking to visit family members."
 
 

"The kinship system that slaves developed was not an imitation of patterns typical of southern white families. The distinctiveness of slave family practices is apparent in the slaves' perpetuation of West African taboos against marrying cousins or other near relatives. The taboo against first-cousin marriages was one indication of the importance that slaves, even in the eighteenth century, attached to the extended kinship group. The extended kinship network played a particularly important role in helping slaves adapt to family breakup. Whenever children were sold to neighboring plantations, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins often took on the functions of parents. When blood relatives were not present, strangers cared for and protected children. Slave parents taught their children to call all adult slaves "aunt" or "uncle," and to refer to younger slaves as "sister" or "brother." In this way slave culture taught young people that they were members of a broader community in which all slaves, whether related or not, had mutual obligations."
 
 

“Some of the cultural distinctiveness of black families may extend back to slavery and across the Atlantic to Africa. The extent to which elements of African culture survive . . . has been hotly debated, but the similarities are striking. African society traditionally has been organized into lineages, larger kinship groups that trace their descent through either male or female line. . . . what mattered most was not the happiness of the married couple but rather then birth of children who could be retained by the lineage.”
 
 

“When these cultural patterns were brought to the United States by African slaves, the lineages . . . were reduced to extended families. The distinction is that in African lineage elders had substantial authority over individuals because lin-eages controlled the allocation of crucial resources, most notably land. . . . The extended kin groups in the United States retained the important sup-portive role of lineages– kin helped each other and shared whatever resources they had. But the authority of the wide kinship group withered. . . . thus, the extended kinship groups among many African Americans were limited to being social support networks; ex-tended families were important to the lives of individuals but had less control over their actions.”
 
 

"During the decades before the Civil War, most slaves lived in nuclear households consisting of two parents and their children. In 1850, approximately 64 percent of all slaves lived in two parent families and 25 percent in single-parent families. Another 10 percent lived outside of a family unit, either alone or with others of the same sex. Family breakup, however, was apparently very common. Although many lasted twenty years or more, slave marriages were very vulnerable to breakup by sale. Interviews with former slaves indicate that one-third of all single-parent households were the result of the sale of a husband or wife. Even when marriages were not broken by sale, slave husbands and wives often resided on separate farms or plantations and were owned by different individuals. On large plantations one man in three had a different owner than his wife and could visit his family only at his master's discretion. On smaller holdings, divided ownership was even more common."
 
 

"Other obstacles stood in the way of an independent family life. Many slaves had to share their single-room cabins with relatives and others who were not related to them. On larger plantations food was cooked in a common kitchen, and young children were cared for in a communal nursery while their parents worked in the fields. On larger plantations, children were taken from their parents between the ages of seven and ten and sent to live in sex-segregated barracks."

 
 
"In a variety of urban settings (including Atlanta, Mobile, Natchez, Philadelphia, Richmond, and several cities along the Ohio River), between 1850 and 1880, between 26 and 31 percent of African American families were headed by women--generally two to three times the rate among immigrant or native-born whites. This differential appears to be due not to higher rates of divorce, desertion, or illegitimacy, but rather to sharply skewed black sex ratios in urban areas and to very high levels of adult black male mortality."

 
 
According to an analysis of a 1910 census, “black mothers with children were more than three times as likely to be living without a male partner in the household as were white mothers with children. Higher mortality among blacks undoubtedly accounted for some of the difference; but the researchers found that the racial difference was greatest among younger mothers . . . black children more often were raised by kin other than their parents, even when the parents were still alive; about 7 percent of black children, compared to 2 percent of white children, had mothers who were alive but were not living with them. Even among two-parent households, blacks were four more times likely to have children living elsewhere.”
 

 
“Most of the postwar trends examined . . . appear to have moved in the same direction for both blacks and whites. Black fertility . . . peaked in the late 1950s just as white fertility did, and both black and white fertility subsequently declined. There was a short surge in divorce among blacks immediately after World War II, just as for whites. And rates of separation and divorce increased at about the same speed for both groups between 1960 and 1980. But in other important ways – such as the proportion of men and women ever marrying and the ages at which women bear children – the family lives of blacks and whites have diverged since World War II.”
 
 

“In the nineteenth century. . . and throughout the first half of the twentieth century, blacks tended to marry at a younger age than did whites. Between 1940 and 1950, however, the average age at which whites married began to decrease, and by mid-century there was little difference between the two groups.”
 
 

“After 1950 the trends turned around. The percentage single dropped further for white women in the 1950s, as more of them married earlier. But for nonwhites the percentage single rose during the 1950s and has continued to rise ever since, with the sharpest increase coming in the 1970s.”


 
“Black women, in sum, are less likely to marry, stay married, and remarry. Those who marry do so at an older age than do whites. The differences between blacks and whites . . . are greater than they were a generation ago. As a result, black women spend far less of their life in a marriage than do white women. . . . white women now can expect to spend less than half of their lives married. But among black women, the corresponding figure has plunged from 40 percent to 22 percent – about the same proportion of life that the average college-educated person spends attending school. Marriage has become just a temporary stage of life for blacks, preceded by a lengthening period of singlehood and followed by a long period of living without a spouse. . . . For blacks, even more so than for whites, a long, stable marriage is the exception rather than the rule.”

 
 
“Overall in 1988, 64 percent of all black births occurred out of wedlock, compared to 18 percent of all white births.”

 
 
“It is commonly thought that this dramatic rise in the proportion of black children born out of wedlock is the result of a sharp increase in childbearing among unmarried black women . . . . Unmarried black teenagers and unmarried black women age 20 to 24 were no more likely to give birth in the late 1980s than they were in the late 1960s. . . . what caused the increased proportion of out-of-wedlock births? . . . births among black married women fell sharply during the 1960s and early 1970s and then leveled off. Second, during the entire period, fewer and fewer young black women married.”

 
 
“. . . black children are about half as likely as white children to be living with both parents or with one parent show the following: black children are about half as likely as white children to be living with both parents or with one parent and a stepparent (41 percent versus 81 percent) they are about eight times more likely to be living with a never-married parent (31 percent versus 4 percent); and they are more than half again as likely to be living with a separated or divorced parent (25 percent versus 14 percent).”

 
 
“. . . black grandparents, on average, were more deeply involved in their grandchildren’s lives than were white grandparents. . . . Moreover, the greater involve-ment of black grandmothers seemed to hold at all income levels, a finding consistent with reports of the importance of extended kin in black middle-class families.”

 
 
“There are longstanding cultural differences in the ways blacks and whites conceive of and carry out their family lives. In particular, African American culture places greater emphasis on ties to a network of kin that can extend over more than one household. Extended kin such as the grandparents, parents, and children Furstenberg and I studied ex-pect to provide and to receive more help from each other than do extended kin in white families. They also live together more often – about half of all middle-aged black women, according to another na-tional study, live in a three-generation household at some point, com-pared to about one-fifth of white women. But the flip side of this greater emphasis on extended kin is less emphasis on the husband-wife bond.”
 
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39 U.S. Census Dept Press Release Facts for Features, Grandparents Day, 7/29/2004
Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p.5. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 11. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
U.S. Census Dept Census 2000 Special Reports: Demographic Trends in the 20th Century, p. 110 (11/2002)(PDF file).
1.  "Family Structures," Encyclopedia of American Social History (avail in PDF Sources).
2. "Family Structures," Encyclopedia of American Social History (avail in PDF Sources).
3.  "Family Structures," Encyclopedia of American Social History (avail in PDF Sources).
4.  "Family Structures," Encyclopedia of American Social History (avail in PDF Sources).
5. "Family Structures," Encyclopedia of American Social History (avail in PDF Sources).
6.  "Family Structures," Encyclopedia of American Social History (avail in PDF Sources).
7. Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Harvard University Press p. 110  (1992)
8.  Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Harvard University Press  p. 111   (1992)  
9. "Family Structures," Encyclopedia of American Social History (avail in PDF Sources).
10.  "Family Structures," Encyclopedia of American Social History (avail in PDF Sources).
11. "Family Structures," Encyclopedia of American Social History (avail in PDF Sources).
12.  "Family Structures," Encyclopedia of American Social History (avail in PDF Sources).
14. Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Harvard University Press pp. 109-110  (1992)   
15.  Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Harvard University Press  p. 91 (1992)
16. Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Harvard University Press p. 93.  (1992)
17. Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Harvard University Press  p. 93 (1992)
18. Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Harvard University Press p. 94  (1992)
19. Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Harvard University Press p. 94-95 (endnotes omitted) (1992)
20.  Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Harvard University Press p. 95 (1992)
21.  Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Harvard University Press p. 95 (endnotes omitted) (1992)
22. Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Harvard University Press  p. 98 (endnote omitted) (1992)
23. Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Harvard University Press p. 98 (endnote omitted)  (1992)
24. Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Harvard University Press  p. 99 (endnote omitted)  (1992)
25. Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Harvard University Press p. 108 (endnote omitted)  (1992)
26. Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Harvard University Press p. 109 (endnote omitted)  (1992)