Ethnic distance refers to the extent to which people wish to avoid contact with members of ethnic out-groups (Bogardus, 1959). Kinship by marriage is one of the most intimate relationships and, therefore, the domain of life with the highest distance between ethnic groups in society. Marriage is an intimate and often long-term relationship and ethnic intermarriage indicates close interactions across ethnic group boundaries. Factors related to intermarriage have been studied intensively (e.g., Blau, Beeker, and Fitzpatrick, 1984; Kalmijn, 1998; Qian, 1997). Next to opportunities for contacts and third party restrictions, preferences and attitudes towards intermarriage play an important role (Kalmijn, 1998). In this study we study the attitude towards ethnic intermarriage among majority and minority groups in the Netherlands. We focus on the role of family relations and on immigrant characteristics of different ethnic minority groups.
Most studies on ethnic distance do not include the perspective of both majority and minority group members. However, to fully understand inter-ethnic relations and their social consequences, the views of both sides need to be examined (Kalmijn, 1998). Hence, we focus on the majority group of the Dutch and on the numerically four largest minority groups: Turkish-Dutch, Moroccan-Dutch, Surinamese-Dutch and Antillean-Dutch. We examine the intermarriage attitude of the ethnic Dutch towards the ethnic minority groups and the intermarriage attitude of the four minority groups towards the Dutch.
We investigate the association between current family relations and the intermarriage attitude. Existing research on family influences is mainly concerned with the socialization of ethnic attitudes and the inter generational transmission of social positions from parents to their children (see Fishbein, 2002; Vollebergh, ledema, and Raaijmakers, 2001). However, there is also the possible impact of the current family on the intermarriage attitude. Family cohesion as well as the endorsement of conservative family values might go together with the rejection of ethnic out-groups as kin by marriage. It is also possible, however, that warm and supportive family relations lead to more acceptance of ethnic intermarriage via a higher generalized sense of trust and higher psychological well-being (Glanville and Paxton, 2007).
Few studies have examined variations in ethnic distance between different ethnic minority groups. These groups, however, are heterogeneous with respect to language proficiency, education, religion, cultural values and traditions. In this study, we examine to what extent immigrant characteristics relate to the intermarriage attitude when we take relevant socioeconomic and cultural factors into account. Using insights from theories on integration and assimilation we derive hypotheses on the relation between immigrant characteristics and the intermarriage attitude. Researchers of immigrant integration have emphasized the importance of generation, length of stay, language proficiency, and migration motives for the socio-cultural integration in the host society (CBS, 2008; Dietz, 2000; Hwang, Saenz, and Aguirre, 1997; Kalmijn, 1998; Lieberson and Waters, 1988), but it is unclear whether these characteristics are associated with the attitude towards ethnic intermarriage.
Immigrants in the Netherlands
In the last decades, the Netherlands has experienced a large influx of immigrants. Around 10% of the total 16.4 million inhabitants of the Netherlands originate from non-Western countries, with the majority coming from Islamic countries such as Turkey (373.000) and Morocco (335.000), or from the former Dutch colonies of Suriname (336.000) and the Dutch Antilles (132.000) (CBS, 2008). Most migrants from these groups are first generation migrants, varying from 50% for the Surinamese to 60% for the Antilleans (CBS, 2008). In the early 1960s, Dutch industry started recruiting migrant labor on quite a large-scale. Most of these migrant workers were Turkish and Moroccan men who were either single or had left their families behind in their home country. Many were recruited in the rural areas where Islam played an important role in life. In the mid-1970s a process of family re-unification began, as first the Turks and later the Moroccans were joined by their wives and children. At the same time, large numbers of Dutch nationals from the former colony of Suriname settled in the Netherlands. Migration from the Antilles to the Netherlands has traditionally taken place for reasons of education (Entzinger, 1994). More recently the limited employment opportunities in the Antilles prompted many young adults to migrate to the Netherlands.
Research in Western countries has shown that most forms of ethnic intermarriage between ethnic minority and majority groups have become more common (Kalmijn, 1998). For instance, studies revealed growing out-marriage across birth cohorts for European-American groups, American Indians, Asian Americans, Hispanics and African Americans in the United States (Lieberson and Waters, 1988; Qian and Lichter, 2007), for Asians, Africans and Europeans in Israel (Okun, 2001), and for several ethnic groups in Australia (Jones and Luijkx, 1996). Also in the Netherlands there is a decline of ethnic endogamy, although important ethnic group barriers remain (Kalmijn, Liefbroer, Van Poppel, and Van Solinge, 2006; Kalmijn and Van Tubergen, 2006). Turkish-Dutch and Moroccan-Dutch predominantly marry within their own ethnic group and not often with an ethnic Dutch partner. In contrast, marriages with a Dutch partner are far more common among the Surinamese-Dutch and the Antillean-Dutch (SCP, 2007).
It is believed that ethnic endogamy indicates group closure, while ethnic intermarriage patterns reveal a strong social acceptance between groups (Kalmijn, 1998). However, when members of two ethnic groups do not intermarry this does not necessarily mean that both groups reject each other, or that they are 'closed' to outsiders. If one ethnic group (the majority or a minority) is 'closed' whereas the other is 'open', endogamy may still prevail (Kalmijn, 1998). Also at the individual level, heterogamous or endogamous marriages can be interpreted differently. Marrying someone from one's own ethnic group does not necessarily reflect a disapproval of ethnic intermarriages. And marrying someone from another ethnic group is not always a sign of acceptance of other ethnicities because one of the partners can be fully adjusted to the cultural and religious beliefs of the other ethnic group. Furthermore, marriage patterns depend not only on preferences, but also on the opportunities on the marriage market (Kalmijn, 1998). Preferences and attitudes play a role in the occurrence of ethnic intermarriages but little is known about the factors that influence these attitudes among ethnic majority and minority groups (but see, Bobo and Hutchings, 1996; Johnson and Jacobson 2005; Tolsma, Lubbers, and Coenders, 2008).
Ethnic Attitudes in the Netherlands
The Dutch have traditionally been known for their tolerance towards minorities and respect for minority interests. For instance, comparative studies on (blatant) prejudice and right-wing voting indicated that the Netherlands was a relatively tolerant nation (Lubbers, Gijsberts, and Scheepers, 2002; Pettigrew et al., 1997) compared to other Western European countries. However, since the beginning of this century, the political and social climate changed considerably from a more multicultural perspective to one that emphasizes Dutch national identity and the need for assimilation of minority groups (Entzinger, 2003). The recent public and political retreat of multiculturalism in favor of assimilation is accompanied with more negative feelings towards ethnic out-groups especially towards Islamic groups (Coenders, Lubbers, Scheepers, and Verkuyten, 2008).
In general, inter-ethnic relations are influenced by ethnic group positions and cultural differences. First, majority and minority groups are typically defined in terms of power and status differences. Majority group members may fear loss of status through close inter-ethnic contacts with minority groups (Hagendoorn, Drogendijk, Tumanov, and Hraba, 1998; Stephan and Stephan, 1996). For minority groups, close contacts with majority group members can increase their status. Second, ethnic distance has also been found to depend on cultural differences related to language, religion and values (Hagendoorn et al., 1998): Ethnic distance appears to be stronger when cultural differences are greater. Several studies have found a hierarchy of preferences for ethnic groups among the ethnic Dutch (see Hagendoorn, 1995). People show the strongest preference for their own group, and next they favor immigrants from western countries, followed by members of ex-colonial groups such as Surinamese and Antilleans and, finally, migrant workers from Islamic countries such as Moroccans and Turks are at the bottom of the hierarchy of preferences. The ex-colonial groups are culturally and religiously more similar to the Dutch and have better socioeconomic positions than the Turkish and Moroccan immigrants (SCP, 2007). The central role of race in the context of the United States (Kalmijn, 1993; Lieberson and Waters, 1988; Qian and Lichter, 2001) does not influence inter-ethnic relations in the Netherlands to the same degree because of supposed lower levels of racism (Kalmijn and Van Tubergen, 2006). In public debates and in the media, Islam and Muslims are typically presented and perceived as threatening the national identity, culture, and security. Furthermore, the Moroccan-Dutch particularly have become symbolic for problems related to ethnic minorities and immigration (see Ter Wal, 2004). This group clearly faces the highest level of threat to the value of their group identity. The condemnation of Moroccans by the public opinion can lead to a strong self-orientation within the Moroccan community, along with a more negative attitude towards the Dutch majority group (Tajfel and Turner, 1986). Thus, the participants of Surinamese and Antillean origin can be expected to have a more favorable attitude towards kinship by marriage with a Dutch person compared to the participants of Turkish and Moroccan origin. Furthermore, because of their stigmatized position the Moroccan-Dutch are expected to have the most negative attitude towards this kind of marriage.
Family Relations and Intermarriage Attitude
Research on family influences on ethnic distance mainly examines the socialization of attitudes, the intergenerational transmission of social positions from parents to their children, and the influence of the material, social and political context that prevailed during the pre-adult years (Kalmijn et al., 2006; Vollebergh et al., 2001). However, the impact of the family might go beyond socialization in the pre-adult years, and beyond the relationship between parents and their children. We focus upon the relationship between current family aspects, such as family norms, family ties and family conservatism, on the one hand, and the attitude towards ethnic kinship by marriage, on the other hand.
There are different theoretical arguments for the relationship between these kind of family aspects and intermarriage attitudes. First, similarity theory states that people like characteristics in others that are similar to their own (Byrne, 1971). Sociologists use the term homophily to indicate that people tend to associate with …