Interracial Relationships

Religion and race are often the two top criteria in mate selection in most societies and people looking for a match in marriage are most likely to find religious and racial group boundaries the hardest to cross. While religious boundaries in the United States are breaking down, race boundary remains the hardest to cross.

While socioeconomic inequality among people from different races in the United States has existed for centuries due to racial discrimination and prejudice, the racial barrier for certain groups seems to be weakening. People from different racial groups have been increasingly working and going to school together, while, with the racial gaps in income narrowing, neighborhoods monopolised by whites in the past have become more affordable for members of racial minorities. As a result of physical proximity, there are opportunities for interracial connections and friendships. Mixed-race children of interracially married couples also tend to bring racial groups closer thanks to their friend networks, which are racially heterogeneous, while racial boundaries are further blurred by the growing mixed-race population.

As a result, there has been a shift in attitudes toward interracial marriage over time and an increase in interracial marriages. The upward trend in marriages of people from different racial groups is a sign that racial and ethnic relations are improving and racial and ethnic distinctions are breaking down. In addition, the increase in interracial marriages is not limited only to the United States but has been noticed in other parts of the world.

There have been a number of laws in the United States prohibiting marriages between members of different racial groups as a result of the concept of purity or the separation of the races. The first US law against miscegenation, or the marriage, sexual relations and cohabitation of members of different races, was enacted in Maryland in 1664 and was soon followed by similar laws in other states. In the Loving v. Virginia case in 1967 all anti-miscegenation laws were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States. However, the court's decision did not result in a boom of interracial marriages because of the stigma linked to these unions.

As Americans' attitudes towards interracial marriages and relationships changes, there has been a steady growth in interracial marriages since the 1980s and at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The increase in such marriages has varied across racial and ethnic groups. Interracial relationships among Asian Americans are more common than in any other racial or ethnic group in the United States. The proportion of Japanese Americans and Native Americans engaging in interracial marriages is also high, while these levels among African Americans remain low.

Out-marriages, or marriages outside an ethnic group, in Asia face severe penalties because of the culture norms in the region, which together with language and cultural differences represent a big obstacle for interracial marriages. Many Asian Americans also believe interracial unions reduce the number of eligible men and women who could potentially engage in same-culture unions. African-American men and woman also express a similar fear as their level of education increases and they climb up economic levels and there are fewer members of their race available for marriage.

According to research, there are four important facts that make interracial couples marry. Shared common interests, shared similar entertainment interests, the attractiveness of the partner and socioeconomic similarity are the main drives behind the decision for such a marriage. This suggests nonracial factors are more important in the selection of an interracial partner for marriage than racial factors.

Factors which play an important role in interracial dating are propinquity, acculturation and attractiveness. Propinquity turns out to be the strongest predictor of the likelihood for interracial dating among Asian Americans. The incidence of out-marriages is also related to acculturation and assimilation. Other racial and ethnic groups are also affected by these factors.

A number of factors that make interracial marriages more resilient were identified by Anna Y Chan and Elaine Wethington. There tend to be fewer conflicts in interracial marriages and they are more stable than other types of relationships between people from different races. While the challenges faced by interracial couples and families are unique, their styles of coping with problems and resolution of conflicts tend to be more mature. In view of the fact that levels of education among well-functioning interracial couples are often higher, the recourses they use to cope with the problems they encounter tend to be superior. Interracial couples also tend to overcome adversity by building networks of like-minded peopled and by building strong bonds with each other.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Loving v. Virginia: Lifting the Ban against Interracial Marriage
Susan Dudley Gold.
Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2007
Beyond Loving: Intimate Racework in Lesbian, Gay, and Straight Interracial Relationships
Amy C. Steinbugler.
Oxford University Press, 2012
How Couples Manage Interracial and Intercultural Differences: Implications for Clinical Practice
Seshadri, Gita; Knudson-Martin, Carmen.
Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, Vol. 39, No. 1, January 2013
Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, & American Law
Fay Botham.
University of North Carolina Press, 2009
Marital Dissolution among Interracial Couples
Zhang, Yuanting; Van Hook, Jennifer.
Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 71, No. 1, February 2009
"But Will It Last?": Marital Instability among Interracial and Same-Race Couples*
Bratter, Jenifer L.; King, Rosalind B.
Family Relations, Vol. 57, No. 2, April 2008
Historical Analysis of College Campus Interracial Dating
Firmin, Michael W.; Firebaugh, Stephanie.
College Student Journal, Vol. 42, No. 3, September 2008
Crossing the Line: Interracial Couples in the South
Robert P. McNamara; Maria Tempenis; Beth Walton.
Praeger, 1999
Close Romantic Relationships: Maintenance and Enhancement
John H. Harvey; Amy Wenzel.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 12 "Establishing and Maintaining Satisfaction in Multicultural Relationships"
Inappropriate Relationships: The Unconventional, the Disapproved & the Forbidden
Robín Goodwin; Duncan Cramer.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002
Librarian’s tip: "Interracial Relationships" starts on p. 65
Interracialism: Black-White Intermarriage in American History, Literature, and Law
Werner Sollors.
Oxford University Press, 2000
The Interracial Experience: Growing Up Black/White Racially Mixed in the United States
Ursula M. Brown.
Praeger, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "The Family: Marriage outside the Color Line" and Chap. 8 "Love and Color: Social Embeddedness"
Romance and Rights: The Politics of Interracial Intimacy, 1945-1954
Alex Lubin.
University of Mississippi Press, 2005
When Does Race Matter? Race, Sex, and Dating at an Elite University
McClintock, Elizabeth Aura.
Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 72, No. 1, February 2010
Children's Perceptions of Interethnic and Interracial Friendships in a Multiethnic School Context
Pica-Smith, Cinzia.
Journal of Research in Childhood Education, Vol. 25, No. 2, April-June 2011
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