Interracial Marriage: More Than Double the Rate in the 1980s

By Haq, Husna | The Christian Science Monitor, June 4, 2010 | Go to article overview

Interracial Marriage: More Than Double the Rate in the 1980s


Haq, Husna, The Christian Science Monitor


As America becomes more diverse, interethnic and interracial marriage has become much more common, according to a Pew report released Friday.

Americans are more likely than ever before to marry outside their race or ethnicity.

Nearly 1 in 7 marriages in 2008 was interracial or interethnic, according to a report released by the Pew Research Center Friday. That's more than double the intermarriage rate of the 1980s and six times the intermarriage rate of the 1960s.

Also, most Americans say they approve of interracial marriage, with more than 6 in 10 saying they're OK if a family member marries outside his or her group. Thirty-five percent say they already have a family member who is married to someone of a different race or ethnicity.

"Race relations have certainly changed in a positive way," says Daniel Lichter, a professor of sociology at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. "This indicates greater racial tolerance, a blurring of the racial divides in the US. In general, it's an optimistic report."

Still, he cautions against notions that the United States is entering a postracial era.

"I don't think these racial boundaries are going to go away anytime soon, despite these patterns we're seeing over past 20 years," Dr. Lichter says. "It's hard to imagine the black-white divide in particular is going to go away anytime soon."

Immigration, changing attitudes drive trend

Waves of immigrants from Latin America and Asia are driving the intermarriage trend by enlarging the pool of potential marriage partners, says Jeffrey Passel, a lead researcher and author of Pew's report.

"American society is becoming more diverse, and workplaces, schools, and other arenas are fairly open so people can meet others of different races on one-to-one levels," Mr. Passel says. "Underneath that, there's a broad acceptance of interracial marriages that 40 or 50 years ago just didn't exist."

But, he adds, "It's very much a generational phenomenon." While 80 to 90 percent of people under age 30 say they find interracial marriages acceptable, that number falls to about 30 percent for those over 65, he says. "People 65 and over grew up in the '30, '40s, and '50s when such things weren't acceptable or were illegal. That's an indicator of how things have changed."

Whites', blacks' rate of intermarriage rising; Hispanics, Asians steady

Approximately 280,000 of the roughly 2 million marriages in 2008 were between spouses of different races or ethnicities, according to the Pew report. White-Hispanic couplings accounted for the greatest proportion of those intermarriages, at 41 percent. …

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Interracial Marriage: More Than Double the Rate in the 1980s
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