Mixed Marriage

African Americans remain much less likely than American Indians, Latinos, and Asian Americans to marry outside of their race, but educational attainment increases the chances of interracial marriage.

The U.S. Census reports that only 7% of all blacks were married interracially in 2000 compared with 56.7% of American Indians, 14% of Hispanics, and 16% of Asians.

A study, entitled Interracial and Intraracial Patterns of Mate Selection Among America’s Diverse Black Populations, used Census data to examine a sample of more than 62,000 married and cohabiting couples between the ages of 20 and 35 in six metropolitan areas.

“For blacks, a reluctance to marry across racial lines is historically due in part to white discrimination and a sense of racial pride and identity,” suggests Renee Romano, author of Race Mixing: Black-White Marriage in Postwar America and associate professor of history and African American studies at Wesleyan University. “Probably the biggest single reason that the intermarriage rate has been low is because America remains in many ways a segregated society. However, I suspect that these numbers will increase in 2010. Young people today are much more likely to have friends and date across racial lines than their parents’ or grandparents’ generations,” Romano adds.

The report, which also studied marriage between other blacks in the U.S., such as West Indians, Africans, and non-White Puerto Ricans in addition to U.S.-born blacks, went further to show that even intermarriage between black cultural groups remains limited. About 70% or more of West Indians married other West Indians regardless of education. Similarly, between 65% and 84% of Africans, regardless of education, married other Africans. The same held true for Puerto Ricans.

“Marriage is an indirect measure of social distance,” explains Daniel T. Lichter, one of the authors of the study. “This study is not only an indicator of how separate blacks and whites still are in the United States. Some people tend to view the black population as monolithic, but this shows that blacks are very different across cultures.”