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A Racial Melting Pot?

Millennial generation will drive dramatic increases in interracial marriage
  • February 17 2012

For over 200 years, Americans have proudly referred to our nation as a “melting pot”—the intimation being that America is a shining example of the prosperity that can result from divergent cultures coming together to form a homogeneous and (hopefully) more harmonious common culture. But the American identity and Melting Pot have largely been a result of the acculturation and the intermixing of white immigrant groups.

While when it comes to race, we’re still a largely segregated nation, America is well on its way to becoming a more diverse melting pot, in more ways than one. It’s no secret that the majority of growth in the total U.S. population over the last 10 years came from increases in those who reported their race(s) as something other than White alone and those who reported their ethnicity as Hispanic or Latino.

But lost in the Hispanic explosion is the fact that the “Two or More Races” population was one of the fastest-growing groups over the decade, increasing by nearly one third over that time period.

Even more noteworthy, is that America may be entering an era of race hyper-mixing. As more and more millennials enter parenting age and become parents, the mixed race population is sure to increase. The youngest millennials are close to puberty, so they still have quite a bit of reproducing to do. They will usher in an era of increased intermixing because they’ve proven to be more open to dating and marrying outside of their race than previous generations.

A study by the Pew Research Center juxtaposed millennials’ attitudes towards marriage with those of older groups. While 85 percent of millennials say they would be fine with a marriage to someone from any of the racial groups asked about, that number drops to 73 percent among 30-to-49-year-olds, 55 percent among 50-to-64-year-olds, and just 38 percent of those 65 and older.

But it’s not just attitudes that differ by generation. Behavioral findings from online dating site OKCupid compared the messaging habits of members age 18 to 50 and found that as age decreases, the frequency of races that members sent messages to increases dramatically. Pew also reported that 15 percent of new marriages in the U.S. in 2010 were between spouses of different races or ethnicities, more than double the 1980 level of 6.7 percent.

While the 2010 Census may be eye opening for it’s mixed race, self-identification findings, it’s true significance probably won’t be realized for many years.  We will look back at this decade as a true inflection point, one where the very same generation that is best known for its perpetual optimism, sense of entitlement and increased use of digital technologies sparked a major demographic shift—and ethnic ambiguity.


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