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Sometimes marrying down - a favorite theme in the movies by popular black filmmaker Tyler Perry - can work, he said. But these unions carry their own difficulties and often don’t have a happy ending - two of three black marriages end in divorce.

So what is left is a scenario where black men - particularly those with higher education degrees and secure careers - take full advantage of their relative scarcity in the “market.” This inequality lets black men be the “deal-makers” and black women the “deal-takers” in relationships, Mr. Banks said during a recent appearance at the Institute for American Values, co-hosted by retired Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Sears Ward.

It is also leading to “an epidemic of singledom” for black women, he added.

Mr. Banks is already working on a new book about boys and gender gaps, to keep the conversation going.

Meanwhile, there is evidence that the next generation of black men and women will not give up on marriage.

A 2008 study by Mathematica Policy Research found that most black teens viewed marriage as important, felt well prepared for marriage and thought “it is better to get married than stay single.”

Another federal study found that 78 percent of blacks ages 20 to 24 agreed that it is “very important” or “important” to be married someday, and 66 percent say it’s “almost certain” or “a good chance” that they will be married in 10 years.

Data like these are “surprising and reassuring” - “these really are positive attitudes toward marriage,” said Mindy E. Scott, author of a July 2009 Child Trends paper on marital aspirations.