Interracial Marriage

An interracial marriage is the marriage between two people who are from different racial groups. It is also known as mixed marriage, biracial or multiracial marriage. Interracial marriage is a form of exogamy which is the custom of marrying someone from another geographical area, social group, family, clan or tribe. The term miscegenation is also used to refer to interracial marriage and interracial sex as well as cohabitation and procreation of different racial groups. The marriage between members of different cultural backgrounds is called intercultural marriage.

Throughout history, interracial marriages have been banned and restricted because certain nations, like Germany during the Nazi period and South Africa under apartheid, promoted the concept of racial purity. Until 1967, the majority of states in the United States had laws against interracial marriage aiming at separation of the races. These laws declared marriages between Caucasians and African Americans illegal. The first anti-miscegenation law in the United States was passed in the state of Maryland as early as 1664 and by the 1700s a total of six states had enacted laws prohibiting all nonwhite groups, including blacks, native Americans, and Asians, from marrying whites. Between 1942 and 1967 certain states decided to legalize interracial marriages but officially it was the 1967 Supreme Court ruling which made it unconstitutional for states to ban interracial marriages. As a result the number of interracial marriages has increased significantly following that decision.

Interracial marriages in the United States have increased since 1970 not only because of the changes in attitudes and legal status, but also due to immigration. For example, Hispanics and Asians are the predominant groups of immigrants, therefore, interracial marriages between whites and Asians and whites and Hispanic increased. Decline in societal prejudices also played a role in the growth in black-white marriages in particular, because it increased socialization between the groups and improved race relations. However, interracial marriages are more common for some racial groups than they are for others. For instance, in the United States Japanese Americans and Native Americans marry most frequently outside their racial groups.

Another explanation for the growth in interracial marriages is the rising age at marriage. The more people postpone settling down, the more different kinds of people they meet. Individuals are exposed to a vast diversity of potential partners after college when they have more opportunities to travel or work abroad. In addition, marriages at a later age are less influenced by parental control and opinion about their children's choice of partner.


The barriers that couples in interracial marriages encounter are usually connected with negative societal attitudes. Because of the rising number of interracial unions, some people are concerned that distinct racial groups may disappear in the future. This is the case with Asian Americans who fear that interracial marriages reduce the pool of eligible candidates who can engage in same-culture marriages. The more Asian-American women are marrying outside their racial group, the more Asian-American men remain unmarried because the number of single Asian-American women decreases. Similar concerns are also common among the African-American population. As a result of increased levels of education and income, out-marriages among African Americans increase at the expense of same-race unions.

Interracial marriages are also influenced by different racial traditions, ethics and values concerning the individual, family and social lifestyle, thus couples often possess differing communication styles. The most common external factor is the acceptance of the family and the society in which the couple lives. Dealing with racism coming from both the inside and outside of the family is one of the most frequent hardships that interracial couples encounter. Richard Watts and Richard Henriksen (1999) found out that Caucasian females married to black males are usually discriminated against on the basis of beliefs such as "Black men belong with black women because they will treat them better than white women" and "Biracial children will always be referred to as black and, therefore, should have a black mother." On the other hand, Caucasians are also biased against black men and there are common views amongst them that "Black men only marry white women for status symbols or upward mobility." There is also the societal stereotype that "Those who engage in interracial marriages must hate their parents" and "Those who engage in interracial relationships or marriages must have psychological difficulties."

Despite external racial prejudices, interracial couples confirm that they are often attracted to each other more because of similarities rather than differences. Like homogenous couples, interracial couples marry because they are attracted to their partner with whom they share common interests and socioeconomic similarities.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, & American Law
Fay Botham.
University of North Carolina Press, 2009
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
Romance and Rights: The Politics of Interracial Intimacy, 1945-1954
Alex Lubin.
University of Mississippi Press, 2005
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
Margins of Acceptability: Class, Education, and Interracial Marriage in Australia and North America
Ellinghaus, Katherine.
Frontiers - A Journal of Women's Studies, Vol. 23, No. 3, September 2002
How Many Melting Pots? Intermarriage, Panethnicity, and the Black/non-Black Divide in the United States
Fu, Vincent Kang.
Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Vol. 38, No. 2, Spring 2007
"A Superior Colored Man ... and a Scotch Woman": Interracial Marriages in New York City, 1850-1870
Dabel, Jane.
International Social Science Review, Vol. 80, No. 3-4, Fall-Winter 2005
Family Stories: Black/White Marriage during the 1960s
McClain, Carol Shepherd.
The Western Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 35, No. 1, Winter 2011
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"
Crossing the Line: Interracial Couples in the South
Robert P. McNamara; Maria Tempenis; Beth Walton.
Praeger, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Mulattoes, Miscegenation, and the History of Black/White Marriages"
Comparative Patterns of Interracial Marriage: Structural Opportunities, Third-Party Factors, and Temporal Change in Immigrant Societies
Jacobson, Cardell K.; Heaton, Tim B.
Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Vol. 39, No. 2, Spring 2008
Inter-Racial Marriage and Family Socio-Economic Status: A Study among Whites, Filipinos, Japanese, and Hawaiians in Hawaii
Fu, Xuanning.
Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Vol. 38, No. 4, Autumn 2007
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