"In the past nearly four decades, black women have made great gains in higher education rates, yet these gains appear to have come increasingly at the cost of marriage and family," said Hannah Brueckner, professor of sociology at Yale University.
"Both white and black highly educated women have increasingly delayed childbirth and remained childless, but the increase is stronger for black women," added the co-author of the study, to be presented at the 104th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.
This is the first time that any study has reviewed longitudinal trends in marriage and family formation among highly educated black women.
The study has shown that black women born after 1950 were twice as likely as white women to never have married by age 45, and twice as likely to be divorced, widowed or separated.
The gap in the proportion of black and white highly educated women living with a spouse has grown over the decades, increasing from 9 percent in the 1970s to 21 percent in 2000-2007.
"Highly educated black women have increasingly fewer options when it comes to potential mates. They are less likely than black men to marry outside their race, and, compared to whites and black men, they are least likely to marry a college-educated spouse," Brueckner said.
The researchers observed that even though black women were more likely than white women to have children early in their academic careers, 45 percent of those born between 1955 and 1960 were childless at age 45 compared to 35 percent of white women born in the same time period.
Brueckner and the study's lead author Natalie Nitsche, a graduate student in sociology at Yale University, analysed data from the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey to uncover marriage and family trends among black women with postgraduate degrees.
The Current Population Survey has surveyed approximately 50,000 households monthly for more than 50 years to collect data on the American labor force.