In the growing national debate over marriage, the role of the black church is attracting increased attention. The African American family has undergone major changes in recent decades: nearly seven of ten black children are born to unmarried parents and marriage rates have plummeted. Despite a recent increase in the number of black children living in two-parent families and a 40 percent decline in the birth rate among black teenagers over the last decade, about 85 percent of black children are still expected to spend some or all of their childhood in a single-parent family.
The black church could play a vital role in educating young people and parents about the importance of marriage and about the consequences of nonmarital childbearing, especially by teenagers. Because faith-based organizations are among the most important social institutions in many black communities, the support, resistance, or level of participation of black faith leaders in programs that encourage marriage could either foster or forestall those programs.
At a June 2 symposium at Brookings sponsored by the Welfare Reform & Beyond initiative, several prominent African American ministers will present their views on whether the black church should focus its attention on promoting marriage and reducing nonmarital childbearing and, if so, how the church should go about achieving these goals. After the presentations, a panel of researchers, policymakers, and community activists will provide context for the marriage debate in the black community and respond to the ministers’ remarks.