Katrina Bell McDonald kept noticing a striking statistic floating around and seemingly accepted as fact: Seventy percent of black women in America had never married. Turns out, the way that number was cited was misleading—it was from a 2009 Census Bureau report and pertained only to black women between ages 25 and 29; by age 55, the number of never-married women dropped to 13 percent. But McDonald, an associate professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins, felt like the widespread acceptance of the number came with an underlying assumption—there was something wrong with black women. The statistics didn't account for black men not getting married, she says, or reflect in any way all the black marriages that were working. "Social scientists weren't really talking about black marriage at all," McDonald says. "They were talking about black divorce or black nonmarriage."
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