Interracial marriage in the United States
Interracial marriage in the United States has been legal in all U.S. states since the 1967 Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia that deemed "anti-miscegenation" laws unconstitutional. The proportion of interracial marriages as a proportion of all marriages has been increasing since, such that 15.1% of all new marriages in the United States were interracial marriages by 2010 compared to a low single-digit percentage in the mid 20th century. Public approval of interracial marriage rose from around 5% in the 1950s to around 80% in the 2000s. The proportion of interracial marriages is markedly different depending on the ethnicity and gender of the spouses.
The differing ages of individuals, culminating in the generation divides, have traditionally played a large role in how mixed ethnic couples are perceived in American society. Interracial marriages have typically been highlighted through two points of view in the United States: Egalitarianism and cultural conservatism. Egalitarianism's view of interracial marriage is acceptance of the phenomenon, while traditionalists view interracial marriage as taboo and as socially unacceptable. Egalitarian viewpoints typically are held by younger generations, however older generations have an inherent influence on the views of the younger. Gurung & Duong (1999) compiled a study relating to mixed-ethnic relationships ("MER"s) and same-ethnic relationships ("SER"s), concluding that individuals part of "MER"s generally do not view themselves differently from same-ethnic couples. Research led by Barnett, Burma, and Monahan in 1963 and 1971 showed people who marry outside of their race are usually older and are more likely to live in an urban setting.
In Social Trends in America and Strategic Approaches to the Negro Problem (1948), Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal ranked the social areas where restrictions were imposed on the freedom of Black Americans by Southern White Americans through racial segregation, from the least to the most important: basic public facility access, social equality, jobs, courts and police, politics and marriage. This ranking scheme illustrates the manner in which the barriers against desegregation fell: Of less importance was the segregation in basic public facilities, which was abolished with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The most tenacious form of legal segregation, the banning of interracial marriage, was not fully lifted until the last anti-miscegenation laws were struck down in 1967 by the Supreme Court ruling in the landmark Loving v. Virginia case.
Social enterprise research conducted on behalf of the Columbia Business School (2005–2007) showed that regional differences within the United States in how interracial relationships are perceived have persisted: Daters of both sexes from south of the Mason–Dixon line were found to have much stronger same-race preferences than northern daters did. The study also observed a clear gender divide in racial preference with regards to marriage: Women of all the races which were studied revealed a strong preference for men of their own race for marriage, with the caveat that East Asian women only discriminated against Black and Hispanic men, and not against White men. A woman's race was found to have no effect on the men's choices.
Several studies have found that a factor which significantly affects an individual's choices with regards to marriage is socio-economic status ("SES")—the measure of a person's income, education, social class, profession, etc. For example, a study by the Centre for Behaviour and Evolution, Newcastle University confirmed that women show a tendency to marry up in socio-economic status; this reduces the probability of marriage of low SES men.
Research at the universities of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and Texas A&M addressing the topic of socio-economic status, among other factors, showed that none of the socio-economic status variables appeared to be positively related to outmarriage within the Asian American community, and found lower-socioeconomically stable Asians sometimes utilized outmarriage to whites as a means to advance social status.
Marital instability among interracial and same-race couples
A 2008 study by Jenifer L. Bratter and Rosalind B. King conducted on behalf of the Education Resources Information Center examined whether crossing racial boundaries increased the risk of divorce. Using the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth (Cycle VI), the likelihood of divorce for interracial couples to that of same-race couples was compared. Comparisons across marriage cohorts revealed that, overall, interracial couples have higher rates of divorce, particularly for those that married during the late 1980s. The authors found that gender plays a significant role in interracial divorce dynamics: According to the adjusted models predicting divorce as of the 10th year of marriage, interracial marriages that are the most vulnerable involve White females and non-White males relative to White/White couples. White wife/Black husband marriages are twice as likely to divorce by the 10th year of marriage compared to White/White couples, while White wife/Asian husband marriages are 59% more likely to end in divorce compared to White/White unions. Conversely, White men/non-White women couples show either very little or no differences in divorce rates. Asian wife/White husband marriages show only 4% greater likelihood of divorce by the 10th year of marriage than White/White couples. In the case of Black wife/White husband marriages, divorce by the 10th year of marriage is 44% less likely than among White/White unions. Intermarriages that did not cross a racial barrier, which was the case for White/Hispanic White couples, showed statistically similar likelihoods of divorcing as White/White marriages.
However, a 2009 study a year later by Yaunting Zhang and Jennifer Van Hook on behalf of Journal of Marriage and Family using a larger sample size than the previous study produced different results with Asian female/White male marriages shown as the least likely to divorce of any marriage pairing.
rate by pairing
|1||Black husband, White wife||1.62|
|2||White husband, Black wife||1.44|
|3||Hispanic husband, White wife||1.19|
|Other mixed race couples||1.07|
|4||White husband, Hispanic wife||1.06|
|5||Asian husband, White wife||0.79|
|6||White husband, Asian wife||0.77|
This data comes from Table 3 Model 4 of the Zhang paper, which incorporates all controls into the model. White husband, white wife pairings are used as a control. The numbers are the relative rates at which interracial couples get divorced i.e. a pairing between a black husband and white wife is 1.62 times more likely to divorce than a pairing between a white husband and white wife.
Census Bureau statistics
The number of interracial marriages has steadily continued to increase since the 1967 Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia, but also continues to represent an absolute minority among the total number of wed couples. According to the United States Census Bureau, the number of interracially married couples has increased from 310,000 in 1970 to 651,000 in 1980, to 964,000 in 1990, to 1,464,000 in 2000 and to 2,340,000 in 2008; accounting for 0.7%, 1.3%, 1.8%, 2.6% and 3.9% of the total number of married couples in those years, respectively. These statistics do not take into account the mixing of ancestries within the same "race"; e.g. a marriage involving Indian and Japanese ancestries would not be classified as interracial due to the Census regarding both as the same category. Likewise, since Hispanic is not a race but an ethnicity, Hispanic marriages with non-Hispanics are not registered as interracial if both partners are of the same race (i.e. a Black Hispanic marrying a non-Hispanic Black partner).
|White Wife||Black Wife||Asian Wife||Other Wife|
- Cumulative percentages are totaled from left to right
Based on these figures:
- White Americans were statistically the least likely to wed interracially, though in absolute terms they were involved in interracial marriages more than any other racial group due to their demographic majority. 2.1% of married White women and 2.3% of married White men had a non-White spouse. 1.0% of all married White men were married to an Asian American woman, and 1.0% of married White women were married to a man classified as "other".
- 4.6% of married Black American women and 10.8% of married Black American men had a non-Black spouse. 8.5% of married Black men and 3.9% of married Black women had a White spouse. 0.2% of married Black women were married to Asian American men, representing the least prevalent marital combination.
- There is a notable disparity in the rates of exogamy by Asian American males and females. Of all Asian American/White marriages, only 29% involved an Asian American male and a White female. However Indian American males had higher outmarriage for males than females, although Indian Americans displayed the highest rates of endogamy, with very low levels of outmarriage overall. Of all Asian American/Black marriages only 19% involved an Asian American male and a Black female. 17.5% of married Asian American women and 8.2% of married Asian American men had a non-Asian American spouse.
In 2006, 88% of foreign-born White Hispanic males were married to White Hispanic females. In terms of out-marriage, Hispanic males who identified as White had non-Hispanic wives more often than other Hispanic men.
2008 Pew Research Center Report (U.S. Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey)
The table shows that among whites who out-married in 2008, there were different patterns by gender in the race of their spouses. More than a quarter of white men (26.9%) married an Asian woman, and about 6.9% married a black woman. In contrast, 20.1% of white women married a black man, while just 9.4% married an Asian man. A slightly higher proportion of white women than white men married a Hispanic person (51% versus 46%), and a similar share of each gender married someone in the other group.
|Percentage of all new marriages in 2008 |
Who “Out-Married” by Race/Ethnicity of Spouse
|1 (%) Percentage of all New Marriages that are Interracial or Interethnic - 2008 ACS|
2 “Newly married” refers to people who got married in the 12 months before the survey.
3 (Hispanics are an ethnic group, not a racial group. E.g.: White, Black, Mestizo)
The study found that in 2008:
- A record 14.6% of all new marriages in the United States in 2008 were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another. This compares to 8.0% of all current marriages regardless of when they occurred. This includes marriages between a Hispanic and non-Hispanic (Hispanics are an ethnic group, not a race) as well as marriages between spouses of different races – be they white, black, Asian, American Indian or those who identify as being of multiple races or some other race.
- Among all newlyweds in 2008, 9% of whites, 16% of blacks, 26% of Hispanics and 31% of Asians married someone whose race or ethnicity was different from their own.
- Among all newlyweds in 2008, intermarried pairings were primarily White-Hispanic (41%) as compared to White-Asian (15%), White-Black (11%), and Other Combinations (33%). Other combinations consists of pairings between different minority groups, multi-racial people, and American Indians.
- Among all newlyweds in 2008, native-born Hispanics and Asians were far more likely to intermarry than foreign-born Hispanics and Asians: 41.3% of native-born Hispanic men out-married compared to 11.3% of foreign-born Hispanic men; 37.4% of native-born Hispanic women out-married compared to 12.2% of foreign-born Hispanic women; 41.7% of native-born Asian men out-married compared to 11.7% of foreign-born Asian men; 50.8% of native-born Asian women out-married compared to 36.8% of foreign-born Asian women. Foreign-born excludes immigrants who arrived married.
- Gender patterns in intermarriage vary widely. Some 22% of all black male newlyweds in 2008 married outside their race, compared with just 9% of black female newlyweds. Among Asians, the gender pattern runs the other way. Some 40% of Asian female newlyweds married outside their race in 2008, compared with just 20% of Asian male newlyweds. Among whites and Hispanics, by contrast, there are no gender differences in intermarriage rates.
- Rates of intermarriages among newlyweds in the U.S. more than doubled between 1980 (6.7%) and 2008 (14.6%). However, different groups experienced different trends. Rates more than doubled among whites and nearly tripled among blacks. But for both Hispanics and Asians, rates were nearly identical in 2008 and 1980.
- These seemingly contradictory trends were driven by the heavy, ongoing Hispanic and Asian immigration wave of the past four decades. For whites and blacks, these immigrants (and, increasingly, their U.S.-born children who are now of marrying age) have enlarged the pool of potential spouses for out-marriage. But for Hispanics and Asians, the ongoing immigration wave has also enlarged the pool of potential partners for in-group marriage.
- There is a strong regional pattern to intermarriage. Among all new marriages in 2008, 22% in the West were interracial or interethnic, compared with 13% in both the South and Northeast and 11% in the Midwest.
- Most Americans say they approve of racial or ethnic intermarriage – not just in the abstract, but in their own families. More than six-in-ten say it would be fine with them if a family member told them they were going to marry someone from any of three major race/ethnic groups other than their own.
- More than a third of adults (35%) say they have a family member who is married to someone of a different race. Blacks say this at higher rates than do whites; younger adults at higher rates than older adults; and Westerners at higher rates than people living in other regions of the country.
2010 Pew Research Center Report (U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey)
The study found that in 2010:
- A record 15.1% of all new marriages in the United States were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another. This compares to 8.4% of all current marriages regardless of when they occurred. This includes marriages between a Hispanic and non-Hispanic (Hispanics are an ethnic group, not a race) as well as marriages between spouses of different races – be they white, black, Asian, American Indian or those who identify as being of multiple races or some other race.
- Among all newlyweds, 9.4% of whites, 17.1% of blacks, 25.7% of Hispanics and 27.7% of Asians married someone whose race or ethnicity was different from their own.
- Among all newlyweds, intermarried pairings were primarily White-Hispanic (43.3%) as compared to White-Asian (14.4%), White-Black (11.9%), and Other Combinations (30.4%). Other combinations consists of pairings between different minority groups, multi-racial people, and American Indians.
- Among all newlyweds, native-born Hispanics and Asians were far more likely to intermarry than foreign-born Hispanics and Asians: 36.2% of native-born Hispanics (both men and women) out-married compared to 14.2% of foreign-born Hispanics; 32% of native-born Asian men out-married compared to 11% of foreign-born Asian men; 43% of native-born Asian women out-married compared to 34% of foreign-born Asian women. Foreign-born excludes immigrants who arrived married.
- Gender patterns in intermarriage vary widely. Some 24% of all black male newlyweds in 2010 married outside their race, compared with just 9% of black female newlyweds. Among Asians, the gender pattern runs the other way. Some 36% of Asian female newlyweds married outside their race in 2010, compared with just 17% of Asian male newlyweds. Among whites and Hispanics, by contrast, there are no gender differences in intermarriage rates.
- Rates of intermarriages among newlyweds in the U.S. have nearly tripled since 1980 (6.7%) increasing to 14.6% in 2008 and 15.1% in 2010.
- There is a strong regional pattern to intermarriage. Among all new marriages in 2010, 22% in the West were interracial or interethnic, compared with 14% in the South, 13% in the Northeast and 11% in the Midwest.
Interracial marriage by pairing
Asian and White
Asian Americans of both genders who are U.S.-raised are much more likely to be married to Whites than their non-U.S.-raised counterparts. Of all the Asian American groups studied, Indian Americans showed the highest rates of endogamy, with the overwhelming majority of Indian American women and men marrying Indian American partners. Indian Americans were also the only Asian American group with higher outmarriage for men, whereas all other Asian American groups had higher outmarriage for women. A 1998 Washington Post article states 36% of young Asian Pacific American men born in the United States married White women, and 45% of U.S.-born Asian Pacific American women took White husbands during the year of publication.
Anti-miscegenation laws discouraging marriages between Whites and non-Whites were affecting Asian immigrants and their spouses from the late 17th to early 20th century. By 1910, 28 states prohibited certain forms of interracial marriage. Eight states including Arizona, California, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and Utah extended their prohibitions to include people of Asian descent. The laws of Arizona, California, Mississippi, Texas, and Utah referred to "Mongolians". Asians in California were barred by anti-miscegenation laws from marrying White Americans (a group including Hispanic Americans). Nevada and Oregon referred to "Chinese," while Montana listed both "Chinese" and "Japanese" persons. For example, a Eurasian daughter born to an Indian father and Irish mother in Maryland in 1680 was classified as a "mulato" and sold into slavery, and the Bengali revolutionary Tarak Nath Das's white American wife, Mary K. Das, was stripped of her American citizenship for her marriage to an "alien ineligible for citizenship." In 1918, there was controversy in Arizona when an Indian farmer married the sixteen-year-old daughter of one of his White tenants. California law did not explicitly bar Filipinos and whites from marrying, a fact brought to wide public attention by the 1933 California Supreme Court case Roldan v. Los Angeles County; however the legislature quickly moved to amend the laws to prohibit such marriages as well in the aftermath of the case. Virginia in addition implicitly forbade marriage between white and Asians in the 1924 Racial Integrity Act, which banned marriages between whites and people who had "a trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian" except for people with 1/16 or less Native American ancestry. 
Research conducted in the late 1970s in Los Angeles County, California, showed Japanese were, on average, more likely to marry outside of their race compared to Chinese and Koreans in the county. In 1979, 41.2% of Chinese marriages had a spouse of a different race. Koreans had a 27.6% rate of interracial marriages, and Japanese had a rate of 60.6%. The research also showed that, among Asians living in the United States, the percentage of women who married outside their race was higher than the percentage of men. Specifically, Korean-American women are involved in a higher percent of interracial marriages than Chinese or Japanese women. The research considered marriages to other Asians outside a person's ethnicity to be interracial marriages, for example, a Korean marrying a Japanese person.
Black and White
In the United States there has been a historical disparity between Black female and Black male exogamy ratios: according to the United States Census Bureau, there were 354,000 White female/Black male and 196,000 Black female/White male marriages in March 2009, representing a ratio of 181:100. This traditional disparity has seen a rapid decline over the last two decades, contrasted with its peak in 1981 when the ratio was still 371:100. In 2007, 4.6% of all married Blacks in the United States were wed to a White partner, and 0.4% of all Whites were married to a Black partner.
The role of gender in interracial divorce dynamics, found in social studies by Jenifer L. Bratter and Rosalind B. King, was highlighted when examining marital instability among Black/White unions. White wife/Black husband marriages show twice the divorce rate of White wife/White husband couples by the 10th year of marriage, whereas Black wife/White husband marriages are 44% less likely to end in divorce than White wife/White husband couples over the same period.
According to Census Bureau data, in 1985 black men participated in 143,000 interracial marriages (approximately 3% of all married black men in the U.S.) and 50,000 marriages with black women (approximately 1% of all married black men in the country).
The 1960 and 1970 censuses showed that interracial marriage between black people and white people was least likely to occur in the South and most likely to occur in the West, specifically the West coast. In the 1960 census, 0.8% of black women and 0.6% of black men in the South were married to a white person. Ten years later, 0.5% of black women and 0.5% of black men in the South were married to a white person. By contrast, in the western U.S., 1.6% of black women and 2.1% of black men had white spouses in the 1960 census; the comparable figures in the 1970 census were 1.6% of black women and 4.9% of black men. In the 1980 census, the percentage of black men in the western U.S. in interracial marriages had increased to 16.5%.
Native American and Asian
Filipino Americans have frequently married Native American and Alaskan Native people. In the 17th century, when Filipinos were under Spanish rule, the Spanish colonists ensured a Filipino trade between the Philippines and the Americas. When the Mexicans revolted against the Spanish, the Filipinos first escaped into Mexico, then traveled to Louisiana, where the exclusively male Filipinos married Native American women. In the 1920s, Filipino American communities of workers also grew in Alaska, and Filipino American men married Alaskan Native women. On the west coast, Filipino Americans married Native American women in Bainbridge Island, Washington.
Asian and Black
With African Americans and Asian Americans, the ratios are even further imbalanced, with roughly five times more Asian female/African male marriages than Asian male/African female marriages. However, C.N. Le estimated that among Asian Americans of the 1.5 generation and of the five largest Asian American ethnic groups this ratio narrows to approximately two to one. Even though the disparity between African American and Asian American interracial marriages by gender is high according to the 2000 US Census, the total numbers of Asian American/African American interracial marriages are low, numbering only 0.22% percent for Asian American male marriages and 1.30% percent of Asian female marriages, partially contributed by the recent flux of Asian immigrants.
Historically, Chinese American men married African American women in high proportions to their total marriage numbers due to few Chinese American women being in the United States. After the Emancipation Proclamation, many Chinese Americans immigrated to the Southern states, particularly Arkansas, to work on plantations. The tenth US Census of Louisiana counted 57% of interracial marriages between these Chinese Americans to be with African Americans and 43% to be with European American women. After the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese American men had fewer potential ethnically Chinese wives, so they increasingly married African American women on the West Coast. In Jamaica and other Caribbean nations as well many Chinese males over past generations took up African wives, gradually assimilating or absorbing many Chinese descendants into the African Caribbean community or the overall mixed-race community.
Native American and White
The interracial disparity between genders among Native Americans is low. According to the 1990 US Census (which only counts indigenous people with US-government-recognized tribal affiliation), Native American women intermarried European American men 2% more than Native American men married European American women. Historically in Latin America, and to a lesser degree in the United States, Native Americans have married out at a high rate. Many countries in Latin America have large Mestizo populations; in many cases, mestizos are the largest ethnic group in their respective countries.
Native American and Black
In the United States, interracial unions between Native Americans and African Americans have also existed throughout the 16th through early 20th century resulting in some African Americans having Native American heritage.
Throughout American history, there has been frequent mixing between Native Americans and black Africans. When Native Americans invaded the European colony of Jamestown, Virginia in 1622, they killed the Europeans but took the African slaves as captives, gradually integrating them. Interracial relationships occurred between African Americans and members of other tribes along coastal states. During the transitional period of Africans becoming the primary race enslaved, Native Americans were sometimes enslaved with them. Africans and Native Americans worked together, some even intermarried and had mixed children. The relationship between Africans and Native-Americans was seen as a threat to Europeans and European-Americans, who actively tried to divide Native-Americans and Africans and put them against each other.
During the 18th Century, some Native American women turned to freed or runaway African men due to a major decline in the male population in Native American villages. At the same time, the early slave population in America was disproportionately male. Records show that some Native American women bought African men as slaves. Unknown to European sellers, the women freed and married the men into their tribe. Some African men chose Native American women as their partners because their children would be free, as the child's status followed that of the mother. The men could marry into some of the matrilineal tribes and be accepted, as their children were still considered to belong to the mother's people. As European expansion increased in the Southeast, African and Native American marriages became more numerous.
Historically, interracial marriage in the United States was of great public opposition (often a taboo), especially among whites. According to opinion polls, by 1986 only one third of Americans approved of interracial marriage in general. In 2011, the vast majority of Americans approved of marriages between different races in general, while just 20 years ago in 1991 less than half approved. It was only in 1994 when more than half of Americans approved of such marriages in general. It should be noted that the approval/disapproval rate differs between demographic groups (for example by race, gender, age, and socioeconomic and marital status).
A term has arisen to describe the social phenomenon of the so-called "marriage squeeze" for African American females. The "marriage squeeze" refers to the perception that the most "eligible" and "desirable" African American men are marrying non-African American women at a higher rate, leaving African American women who wish to marry African American men with fewer partnering options. According to Newsweek, 43% of African American women between the ages of 30 and 34 have never been married.
Religion and interracial marriage
Historically, many American religions disapproved of interracial marriage. Religious tradition and church attendance are consistent predictors for attitudes towards interracial marriages. Biblical literalists are less likely to support interracial marriage to Asians and Latinos. Whites who attend multiracial congregations or engage in devotional religious practices are more likely to support interracial marriages. Region also moderates the relationship between religion and interracial dating. Children with a religious upbringing in non-Western states, particularly the South, were less likely to have interracially dated than those without religious upbringings. Religious attitudes combined with Christian nationalism increased opposition to intermarriage more than either attribute measured independently.
According to a Baylor University study "people with no religious affiliation were not statistically more likely to be in intermarriages than evangelical or mainline Protestants or people from other religions" with one exception, Catholics. Catholics were twice as likely to be in an interracial marriage than the general population. It is speculated that the reason for this is twofold: the increasing diversity of the Catholic population (which has seen a huge influx of immigrants, Catholicism has sizable to significant number of adherents from many nationalities worldwide) and the fact that Catholics typically base their choice of parish on geography rather than on its ethnic or racial makeup which creates more opportunities for interracial mixing. Jews were also more likely to date interracially than Protestants.
Some religions actively teach against interracial marriages. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recommends against interracial marriages, but does not prohibit it. On the other hand, the Baha’i faith promotes interracial marriage as a prerequisite to achieving world peace.
Immigrants and interracial marriage
Racial endogamy is significantly stronger among recent immigrants. This result holds for all racial groups, with the strongest endogamy found among immigrants of African descent. Gender differences in interracial marriage change significantly when the non-white partner is an immigrant. For instance, female immigrants of African descent are more likely to marry U.S.-born Caucasians than are their male counterparts.
Interracial marriage versus cohabitation
In the United States, rates of interracial cohabitation are significantly higher than those of marriage. Although only 7% of married African American men have European American wives, 12.5% of cohabitating African American men have European American partners. 25% of married Asian American women have European spouses, but 45% of cohabitating Asian American women are with European American men—higher than the percentage cohabiting with Asian men (less than 43%). Of cohabiting Asian men, slightly over 37% of Asian men have white female partners and over 10% married to white women. These numbers suggest that the prevalence of intimate interracial contact is around double that of what is represented by marriage data.
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We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question
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