Abstract

While “retreat from marriage” rates have been on the rise for all Americans, there has been an increasing divergence in family patterns between blacks and whites, with the former experiencing markedly higher divorce, nonmarital childbearing and never-marrying rates. Explanations generally focus on theories ranging from economic class stratification to normative differences. I examine racial marriage trends when removed from society and placed in a structural context that minimizes racial and economic stratification. I compare nuptial patterns within the military, a total institution in the Goffmanian sense, which serves as a natural control for the arguments presented in the literature on the retreat from marriage. Through a combination of event history and propensity score matching analyses using the NLSY79, I find that black-white difference in marriage patterns disappears in the military.

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