July 13, 2010

Interracial Marriage among Newlyweds in the U.S.

new janis By Janis Prince Inniss

Last week, I received an envelope in the mail that was clearly an invitation. I recognized the return address as that of a couple that my husband and I have been friends with for almost ten years—let’s call them the Smiths. The Smiths host several parties annually for which we receive written invitations. Still, this looked more formal than an invite for a summer gathering. The envelope was as thick as a wedding invitation, but the Smiths have been married for many years. What could it be? A ”major” birthday?

Inside was a wedding invitation for their son’s nuptials. You don’t know the Smiths, but if I told you the race of their son, would you be able to guess the race of his soon-to-be bride? How about if you had information about whom most newlyweds marry?

Who do people marry? Much has been written about romance and the challenges of finding suitable dating partners, but once people find a mate and decide to marry, who do they choose? Let’s focus on the race/ethnicity of the newly married who wed someone outside of their race/ethnicity.

By looking at the chart below, you will see the percentage of newlyweds who married someone of a different race/ethnicity than their own in 2008. Notice that that the percentage of people “marrying out” (marrying someone of a different race) varies across racial/ethnic groups.

The group with the most out- marriages—Asians—did so at a rate of almost one third (30.8 percent). Whites had the lowest out- marriage rate of the groups, with fewer than one in ten whites (8.9 percent) married to someone of a different race than their own.

Does any of this surprise you? Did you expect any of these numbers to be higher? Lower? More similar across groups? Why would one racial/ethnic group “marry out” at a rate that is particularly different from another? For example, why do Asians and Hispanics “marry out” so much more than blacks and whites--especially whites? Or to flip the question around, why are out-marriage rates for blacks and whites so low? Do you think that some groups have cultural attitudes that shape their attitudes towards intermarriage? What role, if any, do you think the numbers of available people within one’s racial/ethnic group play in any of this?



Source: Marrying Out: One-in-Seven New U.S. Marriages is Interracial or Interethnic (Pew Research Center)

Who are newlyweds marrying when they do marry out their racial/ethnic group? As indicated in the series of pie charts below, the answer depends on the group. For minority groups though, the majority of intermarriages do not occur with other minorities but with whites. Of newlywed Asians, 75.1 percent married whites, of Hispanics 80.5 percent, and of blacks 57.5 percent. So who do whites marry when they marry outside of their race/ethnicity? Almost half (48.8 percent) of all newlywed whites married Hispanics.

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Note: Other includes American Indian, two or more races and “some other” race categories.

Data reflect marriages to someone of a different race/ethnicity in the previous 12 months.

Source: Marrying Out: One-in-Seven New U.S. Marriages is Interracial or Interethnic (Pew Research Center)

What patterns, if any, can we detect in looking at the spouses of men and women in new interracial marriages? The charts below provide such data. One of the more striking differences between males and females who recently “out-married” is among whites: Of those who intermarried in 2008, far more white men married Asian women than white women married Asian men (26.9 percent compared to 9.4 percent), while white women were far more likely to marry black men than white men were to marry black women (20.1 percent compared to 6.9 percent). Another noteworthy difference is that of Hispanics who married someone of a different race/ethnicity, the proportion of Hispanic women who married black men was much higher than Hispanic men who married Black women (13.2 percent compared to 4.5 percent).

What about the “desirability” of certain groups as spouses? (I presume that marriage is some indication of someone’s desirability—at least desirability as a marriage partner.) The lack of desirability of black women and Asian men as spouses for those who intermarried in 2008 is worth noting. White, Hispanic, and Asian men in mixed marriages married women of every other racial category more than they did black women. Similarly, white, black, and Hispanic women who entered interracial marriages in 2008 did so with men from other racial/ethnic groups ahead of Asian men. Both white women and white men however, were desired as partners by blacks, Hispanics and Asians in interracial marriages in 2008. As the data in the pie charts illustrates, the majority of minorities in intermarriages—both male and female—married whites (ranging from 57.2 percent to 83.3 percent).

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Stay tuned to this space as we answer some of the questions raised in this piece and continue to learn more about intermarriage in the U.S. And regarding young Mr. Smith, like 84.5 percent of people in his racial/ethnic group, he is marrying within his race.


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Does this take into consideration the sizes of the populations of each race?

In other words, maybe there are enough blacks and whites for blacks and whites to frequently marry "in", but not enough Asians (in the US) for every Asian to marry another Asian.

@Shae The statistics are dealing with %s, I don't think your question really makes sense. If there are enough Asian women (for example) then you could basically assume there are 'enough' Asian men around... unless for some strange reason far more of a particular sex are coming to America.

I think you should consider the sizes of each population race. Maybe their are not enough Asian women as their are Asian men. If not maybe they should work on social control.

I think the reason most whites and blacks “marry in” is because they want someone who understand their culture and beliefs and shares the same values. It could also be because white people frequently live in a community with other whites and the same goes for blacks. Asians and Hispanics on the other hand, move amongst different countries with different races. It was surprising to find out that when Asians, Hispanics and blacks “marry out”, they marry whites. Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians finding whites most desirable to marry was not surprising because wherever they move, white is more dominate in population, so there are more white people around to marry then the other races.
We didn’t really talk too much about interracial marriages in my sociology class, but the major example given in our textbook was that of Seal and Heidi Klum. The textbook went on to explain that though not all interracial couples are as visible as them, interracial marriages are becoming more and more common and accepted.

I was so amazed/surprised on what the statistics showed about Asians marrying out. As stated in the book there are many societies that have their unstated or explicit rules that define potential mates as acceptable or unacceptable. I know a lot of Asian parents that would always prefer thier kids to marry someone that has the same culture. For example, their son would bring someone home to meet the family with a different ethnicity, parents would not treat them any differently but you know and you could tell that on the back of the parents' heads they want them to marry someone with same ethnicity. It is just one of those unstated rules that some parents have.
I would also agree on one of the posts that maybe one of the reasons why a lot of asians marry out is because many asians do move to a different country and meet many different ethnicities.

I am not surprised with the result. There are much intermarriage that is happening all over the world, especially Americans and Asians. Maybe because Americans love to explore another culture and they want a wife who will stay at home that will take care of them, like most Asian cultures have.

Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians finding whites most desirable to marry was not surprising because wherever they move, white is more dominate in population, so there are more white people around to marry then the other races. It is just one of those unstated rules that some parents have. http://babysinvitations.com

It just happen that white guys like to marry Asian women I think because of being a wife material.

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