Interracial marriage in the United States has hit an all-time high, a new study suggests, with a record 1 in 12 marriages taking place between people from different racial backgrounds.
“The rise in interracial marriage indicates that race relations have improved over the past quarter century,” Daniel Lichter, a sociology professor at Cornell University, told The Associated Press. “Mixed-race children have blurred America’s color line. They often interact with others on either side of the racial divide and frequently serve as brokers between friends and family members of different racial backgrounds.”
Make no mistake about it – it takes two strong people committed to acknowledging their biases and shortcomings and still willing to lean and develop as a couple and to deal with a society that while more accepting is still racist.
But America still has a long way to go. Less than six months ago, a Kentucky church voted to ban interracial marriages and prevent mixed-race couples from becoming members (the congregation later voted to overturn the ban). Anti-miscegenation laws criminalizing interracial marriage were on the books in many states until 1967; Alabama did not officially lift its ban until 2000. And in April 2011, a Public Policy Polling survey found that 46 percent of Republicans in Mississippi still think interracial marriage should be illegal.
According to a Pew Research Center study that was released on Thursday, 8.4 percent of U.S. marriages are interracial, up from 3.2 percent in 1980. Out of marriages performed in 2010, 15 percent were interracial. The study relied on U.S. Census data and information from the American Community Surveys taken from 2008 to 2010.
While ethnicity and race are two different things, for survey and census purposes they are often used interchangeably. In the Pew study, the term “white” referred to Caucasians who did not also identify as Hispanic.
The study found that Hispanics and Asians were still most likely to marry someone from a different racial background, but the biggest change took place among African Americans, where interracial marriages increased from 15.5 percent to 17.1 percent. Black men were nearly three times as likely as black women to marry someone of a different race, 24 percent to 9 percent.
Just 17 percent Asian men, on the other hand, married someone of a different race during that time, compared to 36 percent among Asian women. The intermarriage rate among Hispanics was about 25.7 percent, and among whites it was 9.4 percent. Of the 275,700 new interracial marriages in 2010, 43 percent were whites marrying Hispanics, 14.4 percent were whites marrying Asians, and 11.9 percent were white marrying blacks.
Interracial marriages are more prevalent in some parts of the United States than in others. Hawaii was most likely to have mixed-race couples, with 42 percent of marriages from 2008 to 2010 involving people of different races. Other Western states — including California, Nevada, and New Mexico — and those in the Northeast were most likely to say such marriages are beneficial for society. Vermont, however, had the lowest rate of intermarriage — just 4 percent.
Overall, the public perception of mixed marriages has only grown more positive. About 83 percent of Americans now say they think it’s “all right” for blacks and whites to date one another; in 1987, only 48 percent of respondents agreed with the idea. Sixty-three percent now say it “would be fine” if a family member married someone from another race, and 61 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said that they felt interracial marriages were changing society “for the better.” (Twenty-eight percent of respondents age 65 or older agreed.) According to the study, minorities, young adults, college-educated adults, and those who identify as “liberal” were most likely to look at interracial marriage in a positive way.
Thanks to such unions, the number of multiracial Americans is also on the rise. About 9 million people — roughly 8 percent of the minority population in the United States — identify as multiracial.
“Race is a social construct; race isn’t real,” Jonathan Brent, whose father is white and his mother is Japanese-American, told the Associated Press. It’s an idea that more and more young adults agree about.
“In the past century, intermarriage has evolved from being illegal, to be a taboo and then to be merely unusual. And with each passing year, it becomes less unusual,” Paul Taylor, director of Pew’s Social & Demographic Trends project, told the Associated Press. “For younger Americans, racial and ethnic diversity are a part of their lives.”
Would you date outside your own race?
We all like to say we’re open-minded and colorblind when it comes to race. But is that true in all aspect of our lives–even dating? If you were signing up for an online dating service, would you keep it open? Or click that little box to search for your own race only?
SpeedDate.com decided to put it to the test, analyzing 1.7 million dates through its website over the course of 18 months. What they found was interesting. While many singles are open to dating outside their own ethnicity, key demographic figures definitely play a role.
“Deep down, while society can be very objective in their dealings on an inter-personal and business level – thus blurring the race-line with respect to their day-to-day lives, individuals also have a deep-rooted bias for specific ethnicities; varying primarily on age and gender,” says Dan Abelon, co-founder and president of SpeedDate.com.
For example, the study found as women get older, they are less likely to date outside their own race. Whereas men, on the other hand, become much more open to the idea as they age. By age sixty, 70 percent of women preferred meeting others exclusively within their ethnicity, compared to just 38 percent of men.
“Males are looking for a companion, and race seems to be an ‘exotic factor’ across many ethnic groups; indicating a preference for a different point of view in the relationship as they age,” Abelon speculates. “Women, on the other hand, seem to prefer the ‘comfort of what they know’ with respect to races, as most tend to prefer their own race more as they age.”
The study also looked at individual ethnic groups ranging from Latinos, East Indian, and African Americans among several others. They found minority groups were much more likely to date outside their own ethnicity than Caucasians. For example, only 12 percent of those with Pacific Island heritage dated exclusively in their own ethnicity, compared with 54 percent of Caucasians.
- In all categories, except for individuals of Asian decent, females were found to prefer their own ethnic group more than males.
- Asian males, at 62 percent, came in second as the least likely to date outside of their ethnic group behind Caucasian individuals as a whole.
So what can we take away from this study?
“Dating preferences, based on culture or color of skin, are considered a taboo subject yet we know it’s no secret that many still consider these to be important factors when meeting others for the first time online,” stated Simon Tisminesky, co-founder and CEO of SpeedDate.com. “What is encouraging is that our findings revealed that across the board, the younger generations were much more open to diversity and dating outside of their circle. We were happy to see this, because as this trend continues, it means online daters will have an even higher chance of meeting someone special based truly on chemistry.”