Inequalities of Love

College-Educated Black Women and the Barriers to Romance and Family

Inequalities of Love

Politics, History, and Culture

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Book Pages: 432 Illustrations: 36 tables, 17 figures Published: July 2011

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Sociology

Inequalities of Love uses the personal narratives of college-educated black women to describe the difficulties they face when trying to date, marry, and have children. While conventional wisdom suggests that all women, regardless of race, must sacrifice romance and family for advanced educations and professional careers, Averil Y. Clarke’s research reveals that educated black women’s disadvantages in romance and starting a family are consequences of a system of racial inequality and discrimination. The author analyzes the accounts of black women who repeatedly return to incompatible partners as they lose hope of finding “Mr. Right” and reject unwed parenting because it seems to affirm a negative stereotype of black women’s sexuality that is inconsistent with their personal and professional identities. She uses national survey data to compare college-educated black women’s experiences of romance, reproduction, and family to those of less-educated black women and those of white and Hispanic women with degrees. She reports that degreed black women’s lives include less marriage and sex, and more unwanted pregnancy, abortion, and unwed childbearing than college-educated white and Hispanic women. Black women’s romantic limitations matter because they constitute deprivation and constraint in romance and because they illuminate important links between race, class, and gender inequality in the United States. Clarke’s discussion of the inequities that black women experience in romance highlights the connections between individuals’ sexual and reproductive decisions, their performance of professional or elite class identities, and the avoidance of racial stigma.


“Clarke gives a nuanced insight into the perils of success and how it can actually endanger black professional women’s future prospects of finding a ‘Mr. Right’ in the 21st century. The book will clearly add variety and debate to the role for women in society from a womanist and feminist perspective, and will be very useful to black women embarking on professional careers. Recommended. All levels/libraries.” — M. Christian, Choice

“Inequalities of Love is a necessary study on the dating practices, challenges, and outcomes for college-educated black women.... Overall, Clarke’s work is well written, adequately organized, and is both theoretical engaged and grounded.” — Kris Marsh, International Journal of Sociology

“It is theoretically rich and compelling. Detailed statistical analyses of national data are combined with fascinating narratives from interviewees in ways that reveal processes that underlie class formation and maintenance. Moreover, the author aims to move inequality scholarship in a new direction—the consideration of inequalities in love and reproduction. The book is an excellent choice for scholars and teachers in the fields of gender, family studies, and social inequality.” — Shirley A. Hill, Contemporary Sociology

Inequalities of Love… is a testament to the notion that sometimes the simplest explanation does not provide the most accurate understanding…. I recommend this book to anyone who seeks literature on the female (and human) experience, which moves away from a singular construction of behavior toward a more holistic stance in assessing human action.” — Megan Douglass, Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy

Inequalities of Love is an important and innovative book. It combines rigorous qualitative and quantitative methods in order to give both a macro-demographic portrait and an intimate individual-level account of family-formation decisions, choices, contexts, and constraints. It moves away from the simplistic causal arguments about the relationship between childbearing and socioeconomic outcomes by refocusing our attention on systems of meaning and evaluation, and by expanding the conversation beyond pure economic attainment to include status attainment. Inequalities of Love is an imminently smart book that will appeal to sociologists, demographers, human development scholars, and policy researchers.” — Mary Pattillo, author of Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City

“I found Inequalities of Love fascinating and innovative. Many authors throw around rhetoric about the ‘intersections’ of gender, race, and class, but Averil Y. Clarke has really given us an intersectional analysis. Her unique combination of qualitative interviews and skilled analysis of demographic data produces a new understanding of how race and class create unequal access to ‘love,’ serious relationships, and marriage.” — Paula England, co-editor of Unmarried Couples with Children


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Price: $30.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Averil Y. Clarke is a sociologist living in New Haven, Connecticut.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Figures ix

List of Tables xi

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction. Inequality: What's Love Got to Do with It? 1

1. School: Makin' It 41

2. Family: Unequal Roads to It 89

3. Marriage: "I Do" It When and If I Can 115

4. Sex: Is Everybody Doing It? 159

5. Contraception: To Plan It or Not to Plan It 193

6. Abortion: The Usefulness of It 231

Conclusion. Love Notes 271

Appendix 287

Notes 317

References 371

Index 403
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5008-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4995-2
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