Marrying Down

A friend of mine told me today that one of her friends is pretty upset about the upcoming marriage of her African American daughter to a white man. When I asked her why, my friend responded that the bride’s mother was upset because her daughter was ‘marrying down.’ She went on to explain that the bride is a CPA while the groom works as a UPS deliveryman. I learned that the couple had dated for three years prior to their decision to marry. The bride’s mother had been holding out hopes that her daughter would find a mate more on her financial level.

The bride is in her mid-30’s as is her husband to be. She is not interested in waiting any longer to get married because she feels her biological clock is running out and would like to have children. Even though her future husband has taken courses to further his skills and helps his fiancé with her clients, the bride’s mother is not convinced her future son-in-law will ever match her daughter’s earning capacity. She is concerned that her daughter will wind up being the family breadwinner.

This is the third case in which I have learned of the African American parents’ disappointment that their daughter is ‘marrying down’ in their view. The race/ethnicity of the future son-in-law was not an issue for the parents; they believed that marriage within or outside of the race should be to someone who possessed the same or greater earning capacity.

While I could appreciate the parent’s sentiments, I could not help but wonder if judging a future son-in-law by his earning capacity should be an overriding issue. Aren’t there other equally, if not more important factors which need to be considered in assessing someone’s marriage potential?

African American women in general earn as much as if not more than their black husbands so the fact that some black women earn more than their white husbands is not surprising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, (2015) about 38% of wives earn more than their husbands and this percentage may continue to grow. As it becomes more commonplace, hopefully, it will become more socially acceptable and not serve as a barrier to a happy marriage – interracial or otherwise.

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