Ethnic Groups and Marital Choices: Ethnic History and Marital Assimilation in Canada, 1871 and 1971

By Madeline A. Richard | Go to book overview

CONCLUSIONS

The results of this analysis indicate that ethnic and ethno-religious intermarriage in Canada doubled during the hundred-year period between 1871 and 1971. Assimilation with the British and French from the standpoint of intermarriage also showed increases over the century. The two charter groups were, in turn, affected by immigrant groups. The British and French showed evidence of marital assimilation over the century, but, as the numerically and/or culturally dominant groups, their levels of intermarriage were among the lowest. This research has demonstrated the utility of examining data for the individual components of the British origin group. English husbands followed a pattern similar to that for the British as a whole, but major historical changes were exhibited by Scottish and Irish husbands. Similar patterns were exhibited by German husbands. When intermarrying, larger proportions of husbands from all ethnic groups tended to select wives from the British origin groups, especially from the English, in both centuries. Likewise, when English, Irish, and Scottish husbands outmarried, they tended to choose wives from among the other British origin groups.

These patterns of intermarriage reveal something about the social distance between groups in 1871 and 1971. Had there not been social and cultural boundaries between groups one might assume that the patterns observed would have been dependent only upon the size of the groups. It has been shown that husbands who married outside their own group showed strong preferences for wives of specific origins in both time periods and that these preferences did not diminish over time.

One of the results of increasing ethnic intermarriage is larger proportions of the population who are also of mixed ethnic origins. As Lieberson and Waters suggest, 'this means that the behaviour of persons of mixed ancestry are of considerable relevance for understanding current and future trends' ( 1985:43). In terms of increases in ethnic intermarriage it does not necessarily follow that a decline in the salience of ethnicity for the children of these intermarriers has also occurred because, if they marry, it is possible that they will show 'patterns of ethnic affinity in their own marriage behaviour' (ibid.: 44). In fact, Lieberson and Waters demonstrate that this was the case in the United States. As they suggest, new questions can now be asked about intermarriage, questions that differ from the type that have been addressed in this analysis. However, Canadian data are not yet available in a form that would facilitate such an analysis. While multiple origins are provided in the 1981 Public Use

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