Skip to main content

Exploring Partner Scarcity: Highly Educated Black Women and Dating Compromise

Abstract

Introduction

Research examining negative outcomes (e.g., condom use) among Black women traditionally focuses on those from lower educational backgrounds. There is a void in the literature surrounding negative outcomes for highly educated Black women.

Methods

The current study uses a modified version of the theory of scarcity framework and mixed methods. These methods provide an in-depth examination of 22 highly educated Black women’s (earning or have earned degrees over a bachelor’s degree) engagement in behaviors that lead to negative outcomes (e.g., partner sharing). Participants were recruited in the summer of 2016 until spring of 2017.

Results

Three broad themes were uncovered: (a) perceptions of partner availability, (b) compromising behaviors, and (c) negative outcomes influenced by both. Factors perceived to influence limited partner availability included (1) the number of equally educated and financial stable Black men, (2) interracial dating trends, and (3) regional preferences for women of other races. Negative outcomes occurred most often among women who compromised their personal values in their relationships. Findings are consistent with current literature that suggest that Black women, despite educational attainment, perceive low partner availability.

Discussion

A common concern of Black women is that Black males’ desires for women of other racial groups is a contributing factor to their limited pool of available partners.

Social Policy Implications

It is important to understand the influence of perceived partner availability on highly educated Black women’s intimate relationship decision-making and create interventions that help them engage in conversations surrounding condom use and partner sharing in their romantic relationships.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Anaebere, A. K., Nyamathi, A., Maliski, S., Ford, C., Hudson, A., & Koniak-Griffin, D. (2012). She decides: Sex partner selection decision making and African American women. Journal of Black Studies, 43(8), 872–892. https://doi.org/10.1177/0021934712459958.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Annang, L., Walsemann, K. M., Maitra, D., & Kerr, J. C. (2010). Does education matter? Examining racial differences in the association betweeneducation and STI diagnosis among Black and White young adult females in the U.S. Public Health Reports, 125(4_suppl), 110–121.https://doi.org/10.1177/00333549101250s415

  3. Atkinson, R., & Flint, J. (2001). Accessing hidden and hard-to-reach populations: Snowball research strategies. Social Research Update, 33.

  4. Babbie, E. R. (2017). The basics of social research. Australia: Cengage Learning.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Barrick, K., Krebs, C. P., & Lindquist, C. H. (2013). Intimate partner violence victimization among undergraduate women at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Violence against women, 19(8), 1014–1033. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801213499243.

  6. Bloor, M., & Wood, F. (2006). Keywords in qualitative methods: A vocabulary of research concepts. London: Sage Publications.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  7. Bonacquisti, A., & Geller, P. A. (2013). Condom-use intentions and the influence of partner-related barriers among women at risk for HIV. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 22(23–24), 3328–3336. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocn.12101.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Buelna, C., Ulloa, E. C., & Ulibarri, M. D. (2008). Sexual relationship power as a mediator between dating violence and sexually transmitted infections among college women. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 24(8), 1338–1357. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260508322193.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. Buhi, E.R., Marhefka, S.L., & Hoban, M.T. (2010). The state of the union: Sexual health disparities in a national sample of US college students. Journal of American College Health, 58, 337–346.

  10. Catania, J. A. (2010). Health protective sexual communication scale. In T. D. Fisher, C. M. Davis, & W. L. Yarber (Authors), Handbook of sexuality-related measures (pp. 591-593). New York, NY: Routledge.

  11. Chambers, A. L., & Kravitz, A. (2011). Understanding the disproportionately low marriage rate among African Americans: An amalgam of sociological and psychological constraints. Family Relations, 60(5), 648–660. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2011.00673.x.

  12. Childs, E. C. (2005). Looking behind the stereotypes of the “Angry Black Woman”: An exploration of Black women’s responses to interracial relationships. Gender & Society, 19(4), 544–561. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243205276755.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Crosby, R. A., DiClemente, R. J., Salazar, L. F., Wingood, G. M., McDermott-Sales, J., Young, A. M., & Rose, E. (2013). Predictors of consistent condom use among young African American women. AIDS and Behavior, 3, 865–871. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10461-011-9998-7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Crowder, K.D. and Tolnay, S.E. (2000), A new marriage squeeze for Black women: The role of racial intermarriage by Black men. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62, 792–807. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.00792.x.

  15. Cupitt, C. (2010). Sexual history questionnaire. In T. D. Fisher, C. M. Davis, & W. L. Yarber (Eds.), Handbook of sexuality-related measures (pp. 568–571). New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Dauria, E. F., Oakley, L., Arriola, K. J., Elifson, K., Wingood, G., & Cooper, H. L. (2015). Collateral consequences: Implications of male incarceration rates, imbalanced sex ratios and partner availability for heterosexual Black women. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 17(10), 1190–1206. https://doi.org/10.1080/13691058.2015.1045035.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Davis, S., & Tucker-Brown, A. (2013). Effects of Black sexual stereotypes on sexual decision making among African American women. Journal of Pan African Studies, 5(9), 111–128.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Few, A. L., Stephens, D. P., & Rouse-Arnette, M. (2003). Sister to sister talk: Transcending boundaries in qualitative research with Black women. Family Relations, 52(3), 205–215. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2003.00205.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Field, C. J., Kimuna, S. R., & Straus, M. A. (2013). Attitudes toward interracial relationships among college students. Journal of Black Studies, 44(7), 741–776. https://doi.org/10.1177/0021934713507580.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Flash, C. A., Stone, V. E., Mitty, J. A., Mimiaga, M. J., Hall, K. T., Krakower, D., & Mayer, K. H. (2014). Perspectives on HIV prevention among urban Black women: A potential role for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis. AIDS Patient Care and STDs, 28(12), 635–642.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Garcia, R. (2015). Normative ideals, “Alternative” realities: Perceptions of interracial dating among professional Latinas and Black women. Societies, 5(4), 807–830. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc5040807.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Green, J., & Thorogood, N. (2004). Analyzing qualitative data. In D. Silverman (Ed.), Qualitative methods for health research (pp. 173–200). London: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Griskevicius, V., Ackerman, J. M., Cantu, S. M., Delton, A. W., Robertson, T. E., Simpson, J. A., & Tybur, J. M. (2013). When the economy falters, do people spend or save? Responses to resource scarcity depend on childhood environments. Psychological Science, 24(2), 197–205. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797612451471.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Hall, N. M., Lee, A. K., & Witherspoon, D. D. (2014). Factors influencing dating experiences among African American emerging adults. Emerging Adulthood, 2(3), 184–194. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167696813520154.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Harawa, N. T., Obregon, N. B., & Mcculler, W. J. (2014). Partnerships between Black women and behaviorally bisexual men: Implications for HIV risk and prevention. Sexuality & Culture, 18(4), 870–891. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-014-9227-4.

  26. Health, United States, 2015: In brief. (2016). Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics.

  27. Henderson, H. D. (1922). Supply and demand (Vol. 1). London: Nisbet & Company Limited.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Hennekens, C. H., Drowos, J., & Levine, R. S. (2013). Mortality from homicide among young Black men: A new American tragedy. The American Journal of Medicine, 126(4), 282–283. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjmed.2012.07.007.

  29. Henry, W. J. (2008). Black female millennial college students: Dating dilemmas and identity development. Multicultural Education, 16(2), 17.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Hyun, J., Quinn, B., Madon, T., & Lustig, S. (2007). Mental health need, awareness, and use of counseling services among international graduate students. Journal of American College Health, 56(2), 109–118. https://doi.org/10.3200/jach.56.2.109-118.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. Jassim, G. A., & Whitford, D. L. (2014). Understanding the experiences and quality of life issues of Bahraini women with breast cancer. Social science & medicine (1982), 107, 189–195. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.01.031.

  32. Jaworski, B. C., & Carey, M. P. (2001). Effects of a brief, theory-based STD-prevention program for female college students. The Journal of Adolescent Health : Official Publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 29(6), 417–425.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Keels, M., & Harris, K. (2014). Intercultural dating at predominantly White universities in the United States: The maintenance and crossing of group borders. Societies, 4(3), 363–379. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc4030363.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Newbury Park, Calif: Sage.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  35. Luke, D. J., & Oser, C. B. (2015). Ebony and Ivory? Interracial dating intentions and behaviors of disadvantaged African American women in Kentucky. Social Science Research, 53, 338–350. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2015.06.016.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  36. Matson, P. A., Chung, S. E., & Ellen, J. M. (2014). Perceived neighborhood partner availability, partner selection, and risk for sexually transmitted infections within a cohort of adolescent females. The Journal of adolescent health : official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 55(1), 122–127. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.11.007.

  37. Nesoff, E. D., Dunkle, K., & Lang, D. (2015). The impact of condom use negotiation self-efficacy and partnership patterns on consistent condom use among college-educated women. Health Education & Behavior, 43(1), 61–67. https://doi.org/10.1177/1090198115596168.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Newsome, V., & Airhihenbuwa, C. O. (2013). Gender ratio imbalance effects on HIV risk behaviors in African American women. Health Promotion Practice, 14(3), 459–463. https://doi.org/10.1177/1524839912460869.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  39. Newsome, V. R., Airhihenbuwa, C. O., & Snipes, S. A. (2018). Educated and at-risk: How the shortage of available partners influences HIV risk for college-educated African-American women. Journal of the National Medical Association, 110(3), 219–230. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnma.2017.06.004.

  40. Painter, T. M., Herbst, J. H., Diallo, D. D., & White, L. D. (2014). Community-based program to prevent HIV/STD infection among heterosexual black women. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)., 63(1), 15–20.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. Pence, E., & Paymar, M. (1990). Power and control: Tactics of men who batter. Duluth, MN: Minnesota Program Development, Inc..

    Google Scholar 

  42. Phillippi, J., & Lauderdale, J. (2017). A guide to field notes for qualitative research: Context and conversation. Qualitative Health Research, 28(3), 381–388. https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732317697102.

  43. Porter, M.M. & Bronzaft, A. L. (1995). Do the future plans of educated Black women include Black mates? The Journal of Negro Education, (2)162. https://doi.org/10.2307/2967239

  44. Saunders, B., Sim, J., Kingstone, T., Baker, S., Waterfield, J., Bartlam, B., Burroughs, H., & Jinks, C. (2018). Saturation in qualitative research: Exploring its conceptualization and operationalization. Quality & Quantity, 52(4), 1893–1907. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11135-017-0574-8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Schmid, A., Leonard, N. R., Ritchie, A. S., & Gwadz, M. V. (2015). Assertive communication in condom negotiation: Insights from late adolescent couples’ subjective ratings of self and partner. Journal of Adolescent Health, 57(1), 94–99. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2015.03.005.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Sharpe, T. T., Voûte, C., Rose, M. A., Cleveland, J., Dean, H. D., & Fenton, K. (2012). Social determinants of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases among black women: Implications for health equity. Journal of Women's Health, 21(3), 249–254.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Simpson, J. A., & Gangestad, S. W. (1991). Sociosexual Orientation Inventory. PsycTESTS Dataset. https://doi.org/10.1037/t04591-000.

  48. Stackman, V. R., Reviere, R., & Medley, B. C. (2016). Attitudes toward marriage, partner availability, and interracial dating among Black college students from historically Black and predominantly White institutions. Journal of Black Studies, 47(2), 169–192. https://doi.org/10.1177/0021934715623520.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Stephens, D. P., & Fernandez, P. (2012). The role of skin color on Hispanic women’s perceptions of attractiveness. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 34, 77–94. https://doi.org/10.1177/0739986311427695.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Stephens, D. P., & Thomas, T. L. (2012). The influence of skin color on heterosexual emerging adult Black women’s dating preference beliefs. Journal Feminist Family Therapy, 24, 291–315.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Tauer, J. M. (2007). Scarcity principle. In R. Baumeister & K. Vohs (Eds.). Encyclopedia of Social Psychology. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781412956253.n466.

  52. U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). Census of Population and Housing, Summary Population and Housing Characteristics, CPH-1-11, Florida U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 2012.

  53. Walsh, W. A., Banyard, V. L., Moynihan, M. M., Ward, S., & Cohn, E. S. (2010). Disclosure and service use on a college campus after an unwanted sexual experience. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 11(2), 134–151. https://doi.org/10.1080/15299730903502912.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Widman, L., Noar, S. M., Choukas-Bradley, S., & Francis, D. (2014). Adolescent sexual health communication and condom use: A meta-analysis. Health Psychology: Official Journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 33(10), 1113–1124. https://doi.org/10.1037/hea0000112.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Williams, J. K., & Goebert, D. (2003). Assessing sexual health behaviors of resident physicians and graduate students. Academic Psychiatry, 27(1), 44–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Wingood, G. M., Hunter-Gamble, D., & Diclemente, R. J. (1993). A pilot study of sexual communication and negotiation among young African. American women: Implications for HIV prevention. Journal of Black Psychology, 19(2), 190–203. https://doi.org/10.1177/00957984930192008.

  57. Wyatt, T., & Oswalt, S. B. (2013). Comparing mental health issues among undergraduate and graduate students. American Journal of Health Education, 44(2), 96–107. https://doi.org/10.1080/19325037.2013.764248.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Younge, S. N., Boyer, C. B., Geter, A., Barker, J. C., & Corneille, M. (2014). An exploration of the sexual behaviors of emerging adult men attending a Historically Black College/University. Journal of black sexuality and relationships, 1(1), 65–96. https://doi.org/10.1353/bsr.2014.0012.

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank undergraduate Research Assistants Tesha Davila, Rumana Rahimi, Katherine Hernandez, Alexander Rafi Yasmeen Nadreen, and Tesha Davilmar for their work on this project.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Brittany Boyd.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic Supplementary Material

ESM 1

(DOCX 16 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Boyd, B., Stephens, D.P., Eaton, A. et al. Exploring Partner Scarcity: Highly Educated Black Women and Dating Compromise. Sex Res Soc Policy 18, 702–714 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-020-00493-3

Download citation

Keywords

  • Black women
  • Scarcity
  • Educational status
  • Heterosexuality
  • Compromise