Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Black women’s marriage rates have consistently been on the decline since the 1960’s and currently, Black women are the least likely to get married across all races and genders (Bureau 2020). Scholars have been using these statistics to tell monolithic narratives of Black womanhood, and even blame Black women for larger issues within the Black community (Collins 2000, Johnson and Loscocco 2015; Moynihan 1965). Prior scholars have also attempted to provide solutions to this problem, while never even approaching Black women, to suggest ways that they can increase their marriage rates and consequently uplift Black families and the Black community as a whole (Banks 2010). My dissertations steps in to address this phenomenon by going straight to Black women to directly capture their relationship experiences. Using focus groups, I conduct an exploratory research project seeking to understand how Black women describe their heterosexual experiences, if these experiences differ by educational attainment, how Black women feel they are being received within intimate marketplaces, and how their background impacts their perceptions. I find that the Black women within my dissertation display a hyperawareness of the impacts of mass incarceration on the Black community and are increasingly more open to men with criminal backgrounds as a means to expand their dating pools. I also find that most of my respondents reject romantic societal notions of marriage in favor of a more practical and mutually beneficial interpretation. Lastly, I find that in many cases, my respondents tend to favor prioritizing their own self-improvement in terms of degree attainment and career advancement rather than pursuing a relationship, in addition to practicing radical self-love. I conclude by discussing the implications of these findings and ultimately urge that future scholars speak directly to Black people when discussing Black issues.



Committee Chair

Becker, Sarah