Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Future of Marriage and Hispanics

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Future of Marriage and Hispanics

Article excerpt

At least two important demographic changes will occur in the United States in the future: the growth of the Hispanic population and the growth of the second and third generations among Hispanics. We argue that the expansion of the Hispanic population is unlikely to slow the retreat from marriage, despite the pronuptial cultural orientations of some groups of immigrants and their native-born coethnics. On the contrary, the second- and third-generation descendents of immigrants will join in the retreat from marriage as a result of their exposure to the cultural and economic environment of the United States, as well as changes in the countries from which their immigrant parents originate. Sources of uncertainty about this scenario are noted.

Key Words: assimilation, cohabitation, Hispanics, immigration, intermarriage, marriage.

In recent years, numerous social observers have sounded the alarm that marriage is at risk of becoming deinstitutionalized. Indeed, a "retreat from marriage" is evident in a number of trends. For example, the typical age at first marriage has reached a historical high, and the proportions of men and women who never marry are approaching unprecedented levels (Fitch & Ruggles, 2000). In addition, cohabitation and nonmarital childbearing have increased dramatically (Bumpass & Lu, 2000; Casper & Bianchi, 2002; Raley, 2000), and divorce rates remain high (Ruggles, 1997).

At the same time that family patterns are changing, other aspects of U.S. society are also being transformed. One of the most notable transformations is the increasing racial and ethnic diversity of the U.S. population. In particular, the shares of the population that are Asian and Hispanic are growing, whereas the non-Hispanic White share is shrinking, and the African American share is remaining roughly constant (Sandefur, Martin, Eggerling-Boeck, Mannon, & Meier, 2001; Zuberi, 2001). The growth of the Asian and Hispanic populations is clearly tied to the tremendous volume of recent immigration, which approaches the previously recorded highs at the turn of the last century (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2003). In 2002, nearly 31% of the million persons granted permanent resident status were Asian, and 42% were from Latin America and the Caribbean (U.S. Department of Homeland Security).

The growing racial and ethnic diversity of the population has stimulated concern about the future social and economic fabric of the United States. Among the concerns is whether racial and ethnic diversity has implications for the future of "the family," especially marriage patterns (Fukuyama, 1993). In this article, we offer some reflections on the confluence of future racial and ethnic diversity and the future of marriage. We pay particular attention to the growth of the Hispanic population. We argue that the growth of the Hispanic population through immigration will not have a major impact on the institution of marriage in the United States. Rather, exposure to the United States is likely to erode marriage among Hispanic immigrants and their descendents.


A convenient starting point for thinking about the implications of the growing Hispanic population for the future of marriage is a portrait of current racial and ethnic differences in marriage. We base this portrait on data from the 1998, 2000, and 2002 Current Population Surveys (CPS; for technical documentation, see Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2002). CPS data from even-numbered years provide the most current information available without double counting individuals who are carried over in the samples for adjacent survey years. The CPS provides information on current marital status rather than transitions into and out of marriage over time. Moreover, the marital status question does not identify individuals who are in cohabiting unions, but individuals who are cohabiting can be identified from the household roster. …

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