Women in Black & White Survey

As a result of Mommy Wars, Leslie became interested in the different experiences facing black and white women in America. Along with fellow Random House author Paula Penn-Nabrit, Leslie conducted a national survey of black and white women exploring how life, work, motherhood, love, money, education and family differ for American women.

Women in Black & White Survey
Executive Summary

“I deeply regret the lack of socialization between black and white. Twice I have had the chance to become very close to a black woman, once in college and now. In college, that friendship was stopped by peer pressure from her black male friends. As for my friend now, we do great alone or in white company, but in black company, black men stop talking when I draw near, including her husband…The fact that successful black adults still suffer from [prejudice] is very sad and shows how far we have yet to go.
– Respondent to Women in Black & White

As friends and fellow authors, we long wondered why candid communication and camaraderie between black and white women is rare in America. Our national newspapers and magazines brim with stories dissecting race and gender – but the rich, nuanced interdependency of black and white women is seldom discussed, either by the nation’s media or in our homes.

So we decided to do something about it. The result is Women in Black & White, the first national survey exploring how life, love, work, motherhood, money, sex, religion and relationships differ for black and white American women.

Please share the anonymous, confidential survey results with your readership, family, friends and colleagues. Please contact leslie@​lesliemorgansteiner or ppn@​writeme.com for more information or to schedule interviews.

Paula Penn-Nabrit is the president of PN&A Inc, an international demographics research training consultancy. Established in 1986, the firm serves clients engaged in public, private, government, non-profit and education enterprises. She is the author of Morning by Morning (Random House 2003), a memoir about choosing to home-school her three teenaged sons. She holds a JD from Ohio State University College of Law, and is a graduate of Wellesley College. She and her family reside in central Ohio.

Leslie Morgan Steiner is the editor of the critically-acclaimed anthology, Mommy Wars (Random House 2006) and writes the popular online column, On Balance, for the Washington Post. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the Wharton School of Business. She has spent over 20 years working in marketing for Johnson & Johnson, The Washington Post and the Leo Burnett Company. She lives in Washington, DC.

In November 2006 a 100+ question Internet survey with room for open ended comments was fielded by Grapevine Survey. 1,105 women responded.

Note on Methodology
It is important to emphasize that this survey was not random, or scientific in any traditional sense. It was conducted via the Internet, with inherent biases due to computer access and literacy. All answers were self-reported, leaving open the possibility of unconscious bias. Many questions were intentionally provocative to spur discussion and ongoing thought by respondents.

Demographics of Respondents

  • 65% (717) of respondents were White/​Caucasian
  • 27% (293) were Black/​African-American
  • Annual household incomes:
    – 19% less than $50,000
    – 34% $50,000 to $100,000 range
    – 48% over $100,000
  • White women skewed wealthier: 54% greater than $100,000 vs. 33% of black women
  • 65% of white women were married vs. 36% of black women
  • 55% of black women reported being divorced or never married vs. 25% of white women
  • Approximately 40% of black and white women who took the survey were age 30-39; there were more 22-29 year old white women (28% vs. 19% black women) and more 40-49 year old black women (27% vs. 20% white women). Other older and younger age groups were roughly equivalent in percent of respondents.
  • Over 96% of both black and white respondents had at least some college education.
  • 73% of white women respondents were employed fulltime vs. 84% of black women.
  • Roughly 50% of both groups have children; more white women (32% vs. 18% of black women respondents) have children ages 0-5.
  • Political affiliations broke out as follows:
    – White women were 64% Democrat, 9% Republican, 20% Independent
    – Black women were 72% Democrat, 3% Republican, 18% Independent
  • 87% of black respondents were Christian; 8% reported no religious affiliation.
  • White respondents were 57% Christian, 8% Jewish and 28% no religious affiliation.

Key Findings

Women of both races eager to discuss issues.

  • Our goal was 1,000 responses within two weeks – we got 1,100 within 24 hours!
  • 24% of respondents (262/​1,100) added personal comments
  • Over 90% of black and white women feel racism remains a prevalent force in U.S. society
  • Nearly 100% of black and white women report being interested in hearing others’ views on race
  • Over 90% of black and white women believe increased dialogue would benefit all women

Black women live more racially integrated lives.

  • Parents of black women more likely to have white friends (74% vs 56% for parents of white women)
  • Black women more likely to grow up in an integrated neighborhood (42% vs. 25% of white women)
  • Black women are more likely to have attended an integrated high school (71% vs. 53% of white women)
  • Black women more likely to have high school friends of a different race (53% vs. 29% of white women)
  • Black women more likely to have a supervisor/​manager of a different race (96% vs 41% of white women)
  • Slight reversal at college level: white women are more likely to report attending a racially integrated college (76% of white women vs. 65% of black women)

Black and white women report roughly the same percent of college friends of a different race (42% vs. 44%) and the same percent remain friends after college ends (22% of black women and 21% of white women)

  • Approximately 71% of both black and white women say they live in racially integrated communities as adults

Black women are more conscious of race’s impact on their lives and more concerned about prejudice and negative effects of racial stereotyping; they think and talk more about race’s impact on their lives than white women do.

  • More black women discuss race with other women of different races (84% vs. 73% of white women)

But white women report feeling that these discussions were more productive (75% vs. 61% of black women)

  • White women are more optimistic about potential for interracial friendships among women (94% vs. 79% among black women)
  • More black women feel let down by modern feminism, with 63% reporting that the movement focused on the needs of white upper middle class women (vs. 27% of white women agreeing)
  • 81% of black women feel black women’s work history is marginalized by research focusing on white women (vs. 46% of white women)
  • 56% of black women report feeling marginalized due to their race, vs. 5% of white women
  • 71% of black women report that race shapes the priorities of women’s lives, vs. 44% of white women
  • White women feel socio-economic differences are more important than race (83% vs. 59% of black women)
  • White women report gender as the most important difference in their lives (39% vs. 22% of black women)
  • 93% of black women (vs. 64% of white women) are aware of mixed race biology due to sexual relations between slaves and owners in 18th-19th century America
  • Parents of black women more likely to see race as an obstacle to their daughters’ education goals (21% of black women vs. 3% of white women); as an obstacle to their daughters’ career advancement (30% vs. 4%); and in their social life/​dating/​marriage (17% vs. 2% of white women)
  • More black women feel that white women benefit from unearned privilege by virtue of being Caucasian in America (88% vs. 47% of white women)
  • Black women worry about coming across as “sensitive and/​or angry” (54% vs. 14% of white women) while white women worry about coming across as “self absorbed and unaware of others” (40% vs. 10% of black women)
  • More black women feel that sexual attraction between blacks and whites should be more openly acknowledged and discussed (70% vs. 44% of white women)

Work, Family, Marriage & Children
Marriage is more common among white women in the survey. Among black women, working motherhood is an accepted necessity; stay-at-home motherhood (and its accompanying frustrations and societal angst) much more common among white women. A higher percentage of black women worry about the impact of racism and prejudice on their children.

  • 65% of white women were married vs. 36% of black women
  • 55% of black women reported being divorced or never married, vs. 25% of white women
  • 90% of black women’s mothers worked outside the home during their childhood (vs. 78% of white women)
  • 97% of black women report that their mothers expected them to work (vs. 83% of white women)
  • 79% of black women’s mothers assumed their daughters would work during their children’s childhoods (vs. 53% of white women’s mothers); 30% of black women’s mothers assumed race would be a factor in that necessity (vs. 0.4% of white women’s mothers)
  • More white women report that their mothers were content in their marriages (62% vs. 36% of black women)
  • Roughly 50% of black and white women have dated someone of a different race; more black women reported race/​reactions of others to be a problem in the relationship
  • More black women are bothered by black/​white couples than white women (29% vs. 2%)
  • Nearly twice the percentage of black women see race as an obstacle for their children (33% vs. 18% of white women)
  • Black mothers worry more about social/​judicial prejudice for their children, with 28% worrying about son(s)’ interactions with police (vs. 4.5% of white mothers); over 30% of these black mothers worry due to son(s)’s race (vs. 3.4% of corresponding white mothers)
  • Black mothers worry about their daughters being viewed as “oversexed” or sexually available because of her race (14% vs. 1.5% of white women)

White women live in households with higher annual incomes, but black women are more financially independent, with checking and savings accounts solely in their names, and a higher percent of black women supporting their extended families and charities.

  • 54% of white women report annual household incomes greater than $100,000 vs. 33% of black women in this income range
  • 25% of white women live in household with annual incomes in the $50,000 to $100,000 range vs. 32% of black women
  • 14% of white women have annual household incomes less than $50,000 vs. 28% of black women in this range
  • 95% of black women have a checking account in their own name (vs. 83% of white women)
  • 90% of black women have a savings account in their own name (vs. 80% of white women)
  • Both groups report roughly the same % of home ownership
  • 46% of black women give money to children, parents or other family members on a regular basis (vs. 30% of white women)
  • 74% of black women contribute on a regular basis to religious organizations or other charities (vs. 65% of white women)

Although white women are more highly educated, educational goals are more consciously important (and set higher) for black women.

  • 55% of white women have graduate/​professional school degrees vs. 44% of black women.
  • More black women report that their mothers had specific educational goals for them (74% vs. 64% for white women)
  • Roughly 42% of both groups’ mothers expected them to attend college
  • More black women’s mothers expected them to go onto graduate/​professional school (31% of black women vs. 20% of white women)
  • 37% of black women vs. 54% of white women’s mothers report being satisfying with their educational accomplishments
  • 88% of white women had teachers of the same race (vs. 21% of black women)
  • 28% of white women report their children’s teachers are the same race (vs. 11% of black women)
  • More black women expect their children to attend graduate/​professional school (34% vs. 22% of white women)

Next Steps

  • More quantitative and qualitative research needed
  • Women’s issues and research need to be conducted discretely by race to yield more robust findings than current data allows
  • Black women’s issues need to be separated from black men’s issues
  • National discussion forums would further dialogue and advocacy by black and white women, working jointly and separately