Marriage has different meanings for blacks and whites: study

Jul 17, 2012
A study led by Michigan State University sociologist Hui Liu suggests marriage has different meanings for blacks and whites. Credit: Michigan State University

Black people who are married don't appear to live any longer than black couples who simply live together, suggesting marriage doesn't boost longevity for blacks the way it does for whites, according to a large national study led by Michigan State University.

"This finding implies that marriage and cohabitation have very different meanings for blacks and whites," said MSU Hui Liu, the study's lead researcher.

The study, in the Journal of Marriage and Family, is the first to document differences between cohabiters and married people across in the .

The number of Americans who cohabitate (live together without being married) has increased dramatically in the past 50 years – from 400,000 in 1960 to 7.6 million in 2011, census data shows.

Liu and Corinne Reczek of the University of Cincinnati studied national health survey data of nearly 200,000 people taken from 1997 to 2004. They found that white people who were married had lower mortality rates than whites who simply lived together.

However, there were no significant mortality differences between blacks who were married and blacks who cohabitated.

Liu said whites are more likely to see cohabitation as a trial marriage, which may mean lower levels of shared social, psychological and economic resources.

In contrast, among blacks cohabitation is more prevalent and is perceived as an alternative to marriage, meaning it may mirror the dynamics of marriage and promote health like marriage tends to do, Liu said.

In addition, because blacks tend to earn less money than whites, marriage may not confer the same degree of social and economic benefits for blacks as for whites, Liu said.

With the rapid growth of cohabitation, Liu said policymakers and scholars continue to question whether cohabitation and marriage promote well-being in equivalent ways.

"Although some researchers emphasize the similarity between cohabitation and , others view the rising trend of cohabitation as a threat to population health," Liu said. "Our results on mortality differences by union status add to the mixed evidence on these debates."

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User comments : 3

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deatopmg
3 / 5 (4) Jul 17, 2012
IMHO - The longevity issue in Blacks is more closely related to severe vitamin D3 deficiency than what was "discovered" by Ms. Liu.
packrat
3 / 5 (2) Jul 18, 2012
I think it's more financially based. Up until about 10 years ago you could get your spouse covered on your job insurance for very little with most companies. So both people could get health care.
Now it costs about as much as buying it separate even when married for most people. Most of the tax breaks for married people are also disappearing quickly. There is little advantage to getting married for many couples other than religious beliefs anymore with a lot less legal hassle if you split up if your not married. That applies to all colors.
Deathclock
3 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2012
I think it's more financially based. Up until about 10 years ago you could get your spouse covered on your job insurance for very little with most companies. So both people could get health care.
Now it costs about as much as buying it separate even when married for most people. Most of the tax breaks for married people are also disappearing quickly. There is little advantage to getting married for many couples other than religious beliefs anymore with a lot less legal hassle if you split up if your not married. That applies to all colors.


Exactly. Me and my significant other have been together for 10 years this October and we have 2 awesome kids together. Don't plan on getting married, there is no compelling reason to do so and it actually benefits us financially to remain separate.

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