The changes in African-American family formation have been of great concern for Americans. To explain the changes, studies have pointed to factors pertaining to the social context and stemming from middle range theoretical perspectives that place the individual at the center of analysis. This research makes the case that a deep understanding of the U.S. political economy is the context for exploring shifts in African-American family formation. To do so, it uses historical materialist theory to analyze African-American families within the structural context of U.S. capitalism.
The purpose of this research is to place African-American family formation within the context of the political economy, historically and presently. This research examines the extent to which historical materialist theory can explain the noticeable changes in African-American family formation from 1960 to 2008. This descriptive study provides insight into the relationship between the political economy and the African-American family in the United States by examining this relationship under two economic periods: (1) the period of corporate (monopoly) capitalism (1960-1970) and, (2) the period of globalization (1970s-2008).
Within these periods, the African-American family’s position in the economy will be dissected by describing the changes in the relationships between African-American women and labor, as well as African-American men and labor, over time. In addition, the influence of the state on: (1) the nature of economic and social labor and, (2) the definition or conceptualization of the family will also be accessed over time. To examine how the forces of production, relations of production, and policies/laws impact African-American family formation, a historical materialist, macro socio-historical analysis is carried out using secondary data. The data sources include the work of other scholars, economists, sociologists, politicians, etc. To analyze the participation of African-American men and women in the labor market (waged) and social reproductive labor (unpaid), Current Population Survey (CPS) data from the U.S. Census is used.
Such an analysis identified significant shifts in the political economy which economically and politically impacted African-American family formation. The results show that during times of major shifts in the forces and relations of production, there were corresponding shifts in African-American family formation. The major shifts occurred within the political economy from 1960 to 1970, 1970 to 1980, and 2000 to 2008. Marriage rates peaked for African Americans in 1970, after the Civil Rights Movement during a time of economic expansion within the political economy of corporate capitalism. Between 1970 and 1980, marriage rates declined during the time of economic decline and neoliberal policies during the political economy of globalization. The last shift was found between 2000 and 2008, as neoliberal policies and economic decline continued within the political economy of globalization.