Redefining the Black Middle Class

Kris Marsh, a postdoctoral fellow at the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has conducted research redefining the black middle class. In an article published in the December issue of Social Forces, Dr. Marsh finds that the traditional concept of the black middle class as a married-couple family with children is no longer accurate. Marsh found that studies that have shown a decline in the black middle class are focusing on married-couple families, a shrinking segment of the overall black population. But she found that there is a large and growing group of black professionals who never marry or have children. This group has tripled since 1980, according to Marsh’s data. “We’ve dispelled the assumption that blacks have to be married to be middle class,” Marsh writes.

Dr. Marsh is a 1996 graduate of San Diego State University. She earned a master’s degree in sociology from California State University Dominguez Hills and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Southern California. Her doctoral thesis, completed in 2005, was entitled, Black Urban Non-Family Households: Their Socioeconomic Position and Spatial Buffering.