Status Exchange in Intermarriage among Hawaiians, Japanese, Filipinos and Caucasians in Hawaii: 1983-1994

By Fu, Xuanning; Heaton, Tim B. | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview
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Status Exchange in Intermarriage among Hawaiians, Japanese, Filipinos and Caucasians in Hawaii: 1983-1994

Fu, Xuanning, Heaton, Tim B., Journal of Comparative Family Studies



High rates of intermarriage are a unique demographic characteristic of the people of Hawaii. Historically intermarriage has been common in Hawaii, and the outmarriage rate during the last decade was around 46% in the state (HSMDH 1995). Many factors have contributed to the high rate of exogamy, among which the most important are ethnic heterogeneity and the relatively small size of the ethnic groups. These demographic structures set constraints on rates of exogamy, and have created an island culture of intermarriage. Today there are more than 20 ethnic groups that are well represented in Hawaii, and, although none of them is the numerical majority, four are significantly larger than the rest (Hawaii State Data Book 1993-94). Hawaiians, Japanese, Filipinos and Caucasians compose 75% of the state population, and frequency of intermarriage among them determines the trends and patterns of mate selection in the state and serves as an indicator of ethnic relations. In this paper we examine endogamy and exogamy amo ng these four groups, with a focus on status exchange between couples.


Hawaii and Hawaiians. The history of Hawaii can be traced back at least 1,500 years when Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands and Tahiti came to live in the Hawaiian islands and became Hawaiians. The Hawaiian language bears a close resemblance to Tahitian, Samoan, Tongan and New Zealand Maori languages, indicating a common cultural root among peoples of these islands. Hawaiians also share similarities with Tahitians and other central Polynesians in their physical features, traditions, and artifacts such as fishhooks, adzes, and ornaments (Elbert 1953). Hawaiians had an estimated population of 300,000 at the time of their first encounter with Europeans in 1778 (Howard 1980). Within the next 50 years, the native population decreased by 40 to 65 percent due to diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, smallpox, measles, cholera and respiratory illnesses brought to the islands by foreign sailors. The indigenous population gradually became a small fraction among Hawaii's ethnic stocks after the need for workhands o n the sugar plantation fields brought in large numbers of foreign laborers. The first credible missionary count in 1832 estimated only 130,000 Hawaiians living in the islands. The first official census in 1853 reported 73,000 Hawaiians, and in 1878 the then Hawaii Kingdom counted fewer than 58,000. The number of full-blooded Hawaiians was 'reduced to 30,000 in 1900, and to 8,711 in 1990 (Buck 1993; Lind 1980; Schmitt 1968, 1973; Kitano 1991; Nordyke 1989; Hawaii State Data Book 1993-94). Since the late 19th century, however, the most important reason for the decline of the full-blooded Hawaiian population has been intermarriage (Fu and Heaton 1997). Today, the majority of Hawaiians (about 18% of the state population) are Part-Hawaiians, and they have relatively low socioeconomic status as a group among the island populations (Nordyke 1989; Schoen and Wooldredge 1989; Kitano 1991; Buck 1993). In this study, the term "Hawaiians" refers to both native Hawaiians and Part-Hawaiians.

In the 19th century sugar production was the most important industry in Hawaii. Due to a shortage of laborers, many immigrants from Asia, Europe and America came to the islands to work on sugar plantations and Hawaii quickly became ethnically diverse. Because of the high sex ratio within immigrant populations, many foreign male laborers married local women, initiating a tradition of intermarriage in the islands. Stigma against outgroup marriage has been historically weak in Hawaii, especially after World War II when minority groups gradually gained social and economic parity with the dominant group (Labov and Jacobs 1986). Table 1 reports the ethnic distribution of Hawaii's population in 1990 by the state government and by the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Status Exchange in Intermarriage among Hawaiians, Japanese, Filipinos and Caucasians in Hawaii: 1983-1994


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