Interracial marriage in the United States

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U.S States, by the date of repeal of anti-miscegenation laws:
  No laws passed
  Before 1887
  1948 to 1967
  12 June 1967

Interracial marriage in the United States has been fully legal in all U.S. states since the 1967 Supreme Court decision that deemed anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, with many states choosing to legalize interracial marriage at much earlier dates. Multiracial Americans numbered 9.0 million in 2010, or 2.9% of the total population, but 5.6% of the population under age 18.[1]

Cultural background

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.[2] Egalitarianism's view of interracial marriage is acceptance of the phenomenon, while traditionalists view interracial marriage as taboo and as socially unacceptable.[3] Egalitarian viewpoints typically are held by younger generations, however older generations have an inherent influence on the views of the younger.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[6] A woman's race was found to have no effect on the men's choices.[6]

Socio-economic background

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.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[9] 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.[9] 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.[9] Conversely, White men/non-White women couples show either very little or no differences in divorce rates.[9] Asian wife/White husband marriages show only 4% greater likelihood of divorce by the 10th year of marriage than White/White couples.[9] 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.[9] 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.[9]

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 interrracially 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.[10] 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).

Married couples in the United States in 2010[11]
White WifeBlack WifeAsian WifeOther Wife
White Husband50,410,000168,000529,000487,000
Black Husband390,0004,072,00039,00066,000
Asian Husband219,0009,0002,855,00028,000
Other Husband488,00018,00037,000568,000

Based on these figures:

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 study found that in 2008:[12]

2010 Pew Research Center Report (U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey)

The study found that in 2010:[12]

Interracial marriage by pairing

Asian and White

An Asian bride and White groom at their wedding (2004)

Marriages between European Americans and Asian Americans are increasingly common for both genders in the United States.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15]

According to social studies by Jenifer L. Bratter and Rosalind B. King gender plays a significant role in interracial dynamics.[9] White wife/Asian husband couples are 59% more likely to divorce by the 10th year of marriage than White wife/White husband couples, whereas Asian wife/White husband couples show only 4% greater likelihood of divorce than White wife/White husband couples over the same period.[9] Social enterprise research by the Columbia Business School (2005–2007) concluded that while East Asian women statistically prefer East Asian men for marriage, they show no discrimination against White men, causing Asian women/White men pairings to consistently become the prevalent form of interracial dating & marriage in the United States.[6]

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. Seven states including Arizona, California, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah extended their prohibitions to include people of Asian descent. The laws of Arizona, California, Mississippi, 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.[16] 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,[17] 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."[17] In 1918, there was controversy in Arizona when an Indian farmer married the sixteen year-old daughter of one of his White tenants.[18] 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.[19][20]

Black and White

Robert De Niro and his wife Grace Hightower are a prominent interracial couple, shown here at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

In the United States there has been an 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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23]

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.[9] White wife/Black husband marriages show twice the divorce rate of White wife/White husband couples by the 10th year of marriage,[9] whereas Black wife/White husband marriages are 44% less likely to end in divorce than White wife/White husband couples over the same period.[9]

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.[24] On the west coast, Filipino Americans married Native American women in Bainbridge Island, Washington.[24]

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.[25] 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.[14] Even though the disparity between African American and Asian American interracial marriages by gender is high according to the 2000 US Census,[25] 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.[26] 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.[27] 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 has also existed throughout the 16th through early 20th century resulting in some African Americans having Native American heritage.

Public opinion

Historical data according to Gallup, Inc.

Historically, interracial marriage in the United States was of great public opposition (often a taboo),[28] especially among whites.[29] According to opinion polls, by 1986 only third of Americans approved of interracial marriage in general.[30] In 2011, the vast majority of Americans approved of the marriages between different races in general, while just 20 years ago in 1991 less than half approved.[31] It was only in 1994 when more than half of Americans approved of such marriages in general.[29] It should be noted that the approval/disapproval rate differs between demographic groups (for example by race, gender, age, and socioeconomic and marital status).

Marriage squeeze

A term has arisen to describe the social phenomenon of the so-called "marriage squeeze" for African American females.[32] 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. This figure is similar to the percentage of unmarried women of other races except white females.[33] Several explanations of this phenomenon have been advanced by sociologists. It may be in part due to the still lingering effects of social ostracism, to which European American men who married African American women were heavily subjected in the past.[citation needed] It may also be the result of a desire among African American women to marry African American men due to concepts such as racial loyalty. In recent times, however, many African American women have expressed a desire and openness to marriage with non-African American men.

Education and interracial marriage

Using PUMS data from both the 1980 and 1990 US Census to determine trends within interracial marriage among Caucasian Americans, African Americans, and Asian Americans, it may be seen that endogamy (marrying within race) was more prevalent for African American men at lower education levels.[citation needed] In 1980, the numbers were as follows: African American males without a high-school diploma participated in endogamy at 96.5%; for those who received a high-school diploma, 95.6%; for those with a college degree and above, the percentage of endogamy were 94.0%.[citation needed] Therefore, the total change in percentage among African American men with a college degree was merely 2.5%.[citation needed] The rates for African American women changed very little with different educational levels. For the African American woman who had not received a high school diploma the rate was 98.7%, high school diploma was 98.6%, with some college it was 98.2%, and college degree or higher, 98.5%.[citation needed] During this time there was a significant increase in marriages between Caucasians and African Americans, maintaining that African Americans are most likely to marry Caucasians over other groups. .[citation needed]

The 1990 results show that rates of endogamy dropped for both males and females, albeit more for the African American male.[citation needed] In 1990, an African American male with a college degree and more was participating in endogamy at 90.4%; for an African American female with the same educational level, 96.4%.[citation needed] The results for the propensity of individuals at higher educational attainment levels to participate less in endogamy over the 10-year period were similar across races, including Caucasians, Hispanics, and Asian Americans.[citation needed]

Religion and interracial marriage

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"[34] with one exception, Catholics. Catholics were twice as likely to be in an interracial marriage than the general population.[34] 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.[34]

Immigrants and interracial marriage

Racial endogamy is significantly stronger among recent immigrants.[35] This result holds for all racial groups, with the strongest endogamy found among immigrants of African descent.[35] Interestingly, the 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.[35]

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%). [36]Of cohabiting Asian men, slightly over 37% of Asian men have white female partners and over 10% married to white women.[37] These numbers suggest that the prevalence of intimate interracial contact is around double that of what is represented by marriage data.

See also


  1. ^ Against 2,1% of the population aged 18 and over. 2010 US Census: "Population by Race and Hispanic or Latino Origin, for All Ages and for 18 Years and Over, for the United States: 2000 and 2010"
  2. ^ Dunleavy, V.O. (1999) Examining interracial marriage attitudes as value expressive. The Howard Journal of Communications, 15 [1]
  3. ^ Knox, D., Zusman, M., Buffington, C., & Hemphill, G. (2000). Interracial dating attitudes among college students. College Student Journal, 34
  4. ^ Firmin, M., & Firebaugh, S. (2008). Historical analysis of college campus interracial dating. College Student Journal, 42.[2]
  5. ^ Gurung, R., & Duong, T. (1999). Mixing and matching: Assessing the concomitants of mixed ethnic relationships. Journal of Social & Personal Relationships, 16.[3]
  6. ^ a b c d Fishman, Ray (2007-11-07). "An economist solves the mysteries of dating". Slate magazine. Retrieved 2009-01-18. 
  7. ^ "Driving a Hard Bargain: Sex Ratio and Male Marriage Success in a Historical US Population". Newcastle University Press. Retrieved 25 October 2009. 
  8. ^ Hwang, Sean-Shong; Saenz, Rogelio and Aguirre, Benigno E. Structural and Individual Determinants of Outmarriage among Chinese-, Filipino-, and Japanese-Americans in California, Sociological Inquiry, Vol.64, No.2, Nov. 1994, pp. 396-414, and Structural and Assimilationist Explanations of Asian American Intermarriage, Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 59, No. 3, Aug. 1997, pp. 758-772.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Bratter, Jenifer L. ""But Will It Last?": Marital Instability among Interracial and Same-Race Couples". Blackwell Publishing. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  10. ^ U.S. Bureau of the Census “Table 60. Married Couples by Race and Hispanic Origin of Spouses”, 15 Dec. 2010 (Excel table. Detailed data can be found in the Statistical Abstract of the United States, from 1979 to 2011.
  11. ^ "Table FG4. Married Couple Family Groups, by Presence of Own Children In Specific Age Groups, and Age, Earnings, Education, and Race and Hispanic Origin of Both Spouses: 2010 (thousands)". U. S. Census Bureau. 
  12. ^ a b c Pew Social Trends: "Marrying Out" June 15, 2010
  13. ^ Lange, 2005
  14. ^ a b Le, C.N. (2008-10-04). "Interracial Dating & Marriage". Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. Retrieved 2008-10-04. 
  15. ^ The Washington Post. 1998-11-09 |url= missing title (help). 
  16. ^ Asian Americans and Anti-miscegenation Statutes
  17. ^ a b Francis C. Assisi (2005). "Indian-American Scholar Susan Koshy Probes Interracial Sex". INDOlink. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  18. ^ "Echoes of Freedom: South Asian Pioneers in California, 1899-1965 - Chapter 9: Home Life". The Library, University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved 2009-01-08. 
  19. ^ Irving G. Tragen (September 1944). "Statutory Prohibitions against Interracial Marriage". California Law Review 32 (3): 269–280. doi:10.2307/3476961 , citing Cal. Stats. 1933, p. 561.
  20. ^ Min, Pyong-Gap (2006). Asian Americans: contemporary trends and issues. Pine Forge Press. p. 189. ISBN 978-1-4129-0556-5 
  21. ^ U.S. Bureau of the Census “Table 60. Married Couples by Race and Hispanic Origin of Spouses”, 15 Dec. 2010 (Excel table)
  22. ^ U.S. Bureau of the Census “Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1982-83”, 1983. Section 1: Population, file 1982-02.pdf, 170 pp.
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  24. ^ a b "Asian and Native Intermarriage in the US". Color Q World. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  25. ^ a b "Census 2000 PHC-T-19. Hispanic Origin and Race of Coupled Households: 2000" (PDF). U. S. Census Bureau. 
  26. ^ "The United States". Chinese blacks in the Americas. Color Q World. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  27. ^ "Race of Wife by Race of Husband". U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1994-07-05. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  28. ^ "After 40 years, interracial marriage flourishing". Associated Press. 15 April 2007. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  29. ^ a b "Most Americans Approve of Interracial Marriages". Gallup, Inc. 16 August 2007. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  30. ^ Saulny, Susan (16 February 2012). "Interracial Marriage Seen Gaining Wide Acceptance". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 February 2013. 
  31. ^ Jayson, Sharon (7 November 2011). "Interracial marriage: More accepted, still growing". USA Today. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  32. ^ Crowder, Kyle D.; Tolnay, Stewart E. (August 2000). "A New Marriage Squeeze for Black Women: The Role of Racial Intermarriage by Black Men". Journal of Marriage and the Family (Minneapolis, MN: National Council on Family Relations) 62 (3): 792–80. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.00792.x. OCLC 49976459. Retrieved 25 October 2009.  [dead link]
  33. ^ "The Black Gender Gap". Gene Expression. 2003-02-23. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
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  36. ^ Swanbrow, Diane (2000-03-23). "Intimate Relationships Between Races More Common Than Thought". University of Michigan. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  37. ^ Degrading Stereotypes Ruin Dating Experience. (2002-10-22). Retrieved on 2011-12-11.