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The Rise of Intermarriage

Pew study analyzes demography of those who marry different races or ethnicities
  • February 17 2012

Guess who’s coming to dinner.

A new report by the Pew Research Center has found that American’s attitudes towards intermarriage has changed considerably over the past several decades.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Pew found that about 15 percent of all new marriages in 2010 in the U.S. were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another. That’s more than twice the share from 1980, which it was 6.7 percent. Of all couples in 2010—regardless of when they were married—8.4 percent were intermarriages, compared to the 1980 share of 3.2 percent.

Yet the rate of intermarriage differs considerably by race and ethnicity. Among all 2010 newlyweds, 9 percent of Whites, 17 percent of Blacks, 26 percent of Hispanics and 28 percent of Asians married out.

Gender patterns in intermarriage vary widely, Pew notes. About 24 percent of all Black male newlyweds in 2010 married outside their race, compared to just 9 percent of black female newlyweds. Among Asians, the gender pattern runs the other way. About 36 percent of Asian female newlyweds married outside their race in 2010, compared with just 17 percent of Asian male newlyweds.

Simply looking at those who “married in” vs. those who “married out,” there appear to be few demographic dissimilarities. For example, Pew notes, from 2008 to2 010, the median combined annual earnings of both groups are similar—$56,711 for newlyweds who married out versus $55,000 for those who married in. In about one-in-five marriages of each group, both the husband and wife are college graduates. Spouses in the two groups also marry at similar ages (with a two- to three-year age gap between husband and wife), and an equal share are marrying for the first time.

Still, there are marked differences when looks at detailed pairings by race and ethnicity. For example, White/Asian newlyweds have significantly higher median combined annual earnings ($70,952) than do any other pairing, including both White/White ($60,000) and Asian/Asian ($62,000). When it comes to educational characteristics, more than half of White newlyweds who marry Asians have a college degree, compared to roughly a third of White/White newlyweds.

Among Hispanics and Blacks, newlyweds who married whites tend to have higher educational attainment than do those who married within their own racial or ethnic group.

Regionally, intermarriage in the U.S. tilts West. About one-in-five (22 percent) of all newlyweds in Western states married someone of a different race or ethnicity between 2008 and 2010, compared with 14 percent in the South, 13 percent in the Northeast and 11 percent in the Midwest.

 

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