One in every 12 U.S. marriages now interracial

Photo courtesy of http://www.weddingcollectibles.com

Associated
Press


            WASHINGTON
(AP) — Interracial marriages in the U.S. have climbed to 4.8 million — a record
1 in 12 — as a steady flow of new Asian and Hispanic immigrants expands the
pool of prospective spouses. African Americans are now substantially more
likely than before to marry whites.

            A
Pew Research Center study, released Thursday, details a diversifying America
where interracial unions and the mixed-race children they produce are
challenging typical notions of race.

            “The
rise in interracial marriage indicates that race relations have improved over
the past quarter century,” said Daniel Lichter, a sociology professor at
Cornell University. “Mixed-race children have blurred America’s color
line. They often interact with others on either side of the racial divide and
frequently serve as brokers between friends and family members of different
racial backgrounds,” he said. “But America still has a long way to
go.”

            The
figures come from previous censuses as well as the 2008-2010 American Community
Survey, which surveys 3 million households annually. The figures for
“white” refer to those whites who are not of Hispanic ethnicity. For
purposes of defining interracial marriages, Hispanic is counted as a race by
many in the demographic field.

            The
study finds that 8.4 percent of all current U.S. marriages are interracial, up
from 3.2 percent in 1980. While Hispanics and Asians remained the most likely,
as in previous decades, to marry someone of a different race, the biggest jump
in share since 2008 occurred among blacks, who historically have been the most
segregated.

            States
in the West where Asian and Hispanic immigrants are more numerous, including
Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico and California, were among the most likely to have
couples who “marry out” — more than 1 in 5. The West was followed by
the South, Northeast and Midwest. By state, mostly white Vermont had the lowest
rate of intermarriage, at 4 percent.

            In
all, more than 15 percent of new marriages in 2010 were interracial.

            The
numbers also coincide with Pew survey data showing greater public acceptance of
mixed marriage, coming nearly half a century after the Supreme Court in 1967
barred race-based restrictions on marriage. (In 2000, Alabama became the last
state to lift its unenforceable ban on interracial marriages.) About 83 percent
of Americans say it is “all right for blacks and whites to date each
other,” up from 48 percent in 1987. As a whole, about 63 percent of those
surveyed say it “would be fine” if a family member were to marry
outside their own race.

            Minorities,
young adults, the higher educated and those living in Western or Northeast
states were more likely to say mixed marriages are a change for the better for
society. The figure was 61 percent for 18- to 29-year-olds, for instance,
compared to 28 percent for those 65 and older.

            Due
to increasing interracial marriages, multiracial Americans are a small but
fast-growing demographic group, making up about 9 million, or 8 percent of the
minority population. Together with African Americans, Hispanics and Asians, the
Census Bureau estimates they collectively will represent a majority of the U.S.
population by mid-century.

            “Race
is a social construct; race isn’t real,” said Jonathan Brent, 28. The son
of a white father and Japanese American mother, Brent helped organize
multiracial groups in Southern California and believes his background helps him
understand situations from different perspectives.

            Brent,
now a lawyer in Charlottesville, Va., says at varying points in his life he has
identified with being white, Japanese and more recently as someone of mixed
ethnic background. He doesn’t feel constrained with whom he socially interacts
or dates.

            “Race
is becoming a personal thing. It is what I feel like I am,” he said.

            According
to the Pew report, more than 25 percent of Hispanics and Asians who married in
2010 had a spouse of a different race. That’s compared to 17.1 percent of
blacks and 9.4 percent of whites. Of the 275,500 new interracial marriages in
2010, 43 percent were white-Hispanic couples, 14.4 percent were white-Asian,
11.9 percent were white-black, and the remainder were other combinations.

            Still,
the share of Asians who intermarried has actually declined recently — from 30.5
percent in 2008 to 27.7 percent in 2010. In contrast, African Americans who
married outside their race increased in share from 15.5 percent to 17.1
percent, due in part to a rising black middle class that has more interaction
with other races.

            Intermarriage
among whites rose in share slightly, while among Hispanics the rate was flat,
at roughly 25.7 percent.

            “In
the past century, intermarriage has evolved from being illegal, to be a taboo
and then to be merely unusual. And with each passing year, it becomes less
unusual,” said Paul Taylor, director of Pew’s Social & Demographic
Trends project. “That says a lot about the state of race relations.
Behaviors have changed and attitudes have changed.”

            He
noted that interracial marriages among Hispanics and Asians may be slowing
somewhat as recent immigration and their rapid population growth provide
minorities more ethnically similar partners to choose from. But Taylor believes
the longer-term trend of intermarriage is likely to continue.

            “For
younger Americans, racial and ethnic diversity are a part of their lives,”
he said.

            The
Pew study also tracks some divorce trends, citing studies using government data
that found overall divorce rates higher for interracial couples. One study
conducted a decade ago determined that mixed-race couples had a 41 percent
chance of separation or divorce, compared to a 31 percent chance for those who
married within their race.

            Another
analysis found divorce rates among mixed-race couples to be more dependent on
the specific race combination, with white women who married outside their race
more likely to divorce. Mixed marriages involving blacks and whites also were
considered least stable, followed by Hispanic-white couples.


Other
findings:

·       
Broken down by gender, black men
were more than twice as likely as black women to marry someone outside their
race — 24 percent to 9 percent. The reverse held true for Asian men — 17
percent intermarried, compared to 36 percent among Asian women.

·       
White-Asian couples who married had
the highest median income, nearly $71,000. Behind them were the following race
combinations: Asian-Asian ($62,000), white-white ($60,000), white-Hispanic
($57,900), white-black ($53,187), black-black ($47,700) and Hispanic-Hispanic
(nearly $36,000).

·       
The top three states for white-black
married couples are Virginia, North Carolina and Kansas, all with rates of
about 3 percent.

 


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