Academic journal article Sociological Viewpoints

The Social Determinants of White College Students' Willingness to Marry Someone Who Is African American

Academic journal article Sociological Viewpoints

The Social Determinants of White College Students' Willingness to Marry Someone Who Is African American

Article excerpt


Participants at three institutions of higher learning were asked if they would be willing, if given the opportunity, to marry someone who was African American. Diversity at all three institutions was represented primarily by white and African American students. Two models were used to examine the results, a five-variable demographic model and a four-variable attitude model. The attitude model predicted a much larger percent of total variance; yet the demographics model did account for a good percent of total variance. Both models were significantly better predictors than the constant-only model with strong prediction rates. The variables "parents who graduated from college," "age," "race," "parental approval," "willingness to have sex," "willingness to date," and "willingness to move into an all-African American neighborhood" each proved significant in determining willingness to marry someone who was African American.


The completion of a high school education for many young adults today is no longer the ticket to a viable economic future. Greater emphasis is placed on obtaining additional training or attending a post-secondary school of education. It is reasonable to conclude that because of increased qualifications now required by many employers, greater contact between people of other races and ethnicities will increase (Rosenfeld, 2008). First, to obtain additional training and educational credentials, young adults will spend more time away from home and often live in more diverse environments compared to where they were raised such as on college campuses prior to marriage. Second, living away from home often means less pressure is felt to conform to expected conventions such as marriage to someone of the same race or ethnic group. Parents and neighbors are less able to encourage their children to marry homogeneously. Third, after achieving training or additional education, young adults will spend more time in the workforce in order to assure greater economic stability prior to marriage thereby increasing the chances of meeting people different from themselves (ibid). These characteristics of a post-industrial society that include increased independence of women, point to greater opportunity to come in contact with a more diverse population thus a greater likelihood of more racial and ethnic out-marriage (Rosenfeld & Kim, 2005).

In 1967 the Supreme Court, in Loving v. Virginia, overturned state laws that had prevented interracial marriages from legally taking place. Marriages between whites and African Americans steadily increased. Positive public opinion of interracial marriages climbed (Kalmijn, 1993). In 1987, less than half of Americans felt it was okay for whites and African Americans to date each other (Qian & Lichter, 2011). In 2009, the percentage of Americans who felt it was okay for people to marry someone of another race climbed to over eighty percent (ibid). In 1980, only 4.7% of African American men married white females (Qian & Lichter, 2011). The number jumped to 14.4% by 2008 (ibid). For African American women, it went from 1.3% in 1980 to 6.5% in 2008.

For Hispanic men born in the United States, marriage to whites went from 31% in 1980 to 38% in 2008. For Hispanic women, between 1980 and 2008, marriage to whites went from 27% to 35%. Mexican Americans, the largest Hispanic ethnic group, saw an increase in interracial marriages between 1970 and 1990 from 19% to 30% (Rosenfeld, 2002). Fifty-two percent of Asian Americans, based on the 2005 census data, were married to someone of another race or ethnic group (Washington, 2013).

College Campuses

To have the opportunity to meet people of another ethnicity or racial group is sometimes limited depending on where one was raised. African Americans have a higher likelihood of living in more racially concentrated areas near or in urban areas (Shapiro, 2004; Anderson, 1999; Wilson 1996). College campuses often afford the opportunity for people of different racial or ethnic backgrounds to live in closer proximity to each other. …

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