(The Root) — Early last week I breathed a sigh of relief when I stumbled across several black sites offering commentary on the findings of a report from the United Negro College Fund stating that black women were enrolling in college in record numbers — more so, in fact, than any other race, ethnic group or gender.
"Yes!" I thought when I read that. Finally some good news about black women.
Turns out, it's actually old news. Many of the sites linked to a story from the Seattle Times that was published in 1997. So black women being high achievers is actually old news.
But the topic is current nonetheless, since so many people are suddenly talking about it again, and unfortunately not all of them are celebrating the positive, even if old, statistics.
You can only imagine my disappointment when I logged onto Facebook and found the headline "Black Women Are Spending Too Much Time and Effort Going to School, They Should Be Spending That Time Trying to Get Married" as the lead post in my timeline. I should have kept scrolling, but the woman who posted it was going off about the story, and I was curious about the leaps of logic that helped the article's writer arrive at this baffling conclusion.
Shame on me.
Unfortunately, this wasn't just an inflammatory headline to garner more page views for an otherwise sound argument. And it wasn't satire, either. To be fair, the writer, a woman, makes a valid point about the number of women who enroll in college but don't complete their education, thereby saddling themselves with debt without the benefit of a degree. There's a worthy discussion to be had about that.
But that good point gets lost by the time she begins to argue against women in their late 30s and beyond seeking an education. She reasons that instead of relying on a degree for a promotion and subsequent salary boost, women should just get husbands to fill in the monetary gap instead.
I expect this sort of logic from the misogynists out there, the sort of heterosexual men who don't really like women but enjoy sex with them. But it's 10 times worse coming from other women, black women especially. The resurrection of the United Negro College Fund's study was an occasion for a much-welcomed acknowledgment that black women are doing something right. And some way, somehow, that resurfaced news was twisted into a bad thing.
The logic in the article is shameful, destructive, ignorant and dangerous. And, furthermore, inaccurate. In a 2011 study that I wish were talked about as often as that "42 percent of black women will never be married" statistic, Ivory Toldson, a contributor to The Root and a senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; and Bryant Marks, a Morehouse psychology professor, found that the more education a black woman has, the more likely she is to be married.
Toldson and Marks looked at rates of marriage for black women based on their education in Atlanta, a city long decried as the worst place in America for a black woman to find a husband. In Atlanta, 37 percent of black women with a high school diploma are married, while 38 percent among those with a college degree are married. The percentage of black married women jumps significantly to 55 percent for women with a master's or professional degree, and 67 percent among those with a doctoral degree.
A study by New York University sociologists Paula England and Jonathan Bearak concluded the same thing: Having a college education increases the marriage rates for black women in their 30s and 40s much more substantially for blacks than for whites.
Additionally, a March 2013 study published in the journal Family Relations found that less-educated couples are more likely to divorce than well-educated couples. Also, a study by the Council on Contemporary Families found that educated women are also more likely to report themselves happy in their marriages than less-educated women.
Despite the headline of that attention-seeking post, education isn't a barrier to marriage for black women. In fact, it's a substantial benefit to getting married, remaining married and, best of all, being happily married. Think about that the next time you debate going for that (second or third) degree.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life.