Currently, many policymakers and civic leaders are interested in developing strategies to improve the well-being of African American men, and to close the achievement gap between black men and other groups. This brief surveys the research on the effects of family structure on African American men and finds overwhelming evidence that getting and staying married has a significant beneficial effect on black men's well-being. Married black men have higher incomes and are less likely to experience poverty. They enjoy better physical and mental health than their unmarried counterparts, and are less likely to engage in unhealthy or antisocial behavior. Moreover, the benefits of marriage are transmitted from married parents to their sons, and these boys do better in life from childhood into adulthood. One of the difficulties in identifying the benefits of marriage for African American men is that individuals who are already doing better in the outcomes of interest--in this case, economic well-being, health, and social integration--are more likely to marry and to remain married. This challenge confronts even the most carefully designed studies. Since researchers cannot assign people to married and single status, they must employ creative techniques to determine whether marriage positively affects men. Despite this issue, existing research suggests that men actually do change their behavior after marrying and that marriage itself makes a difference. (Author abstract)
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