Nearly 50 years after the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case allowing marriage across racial lines, a recent study by the Pew Research Center has found that the percentage of such newlywed couples has more than quintupled, soaring from just 3 percent to 17 percent between 1967 and 2015.
One in 10 married people in 2015 — and not just those who had recently married — had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity,” according to the May 2017 study. “This translates into 11 million people who were intermarried.”
Researchers attributed the steady growth in interracial marriages to shifting societal norms and changed attitudes toward race. As a result, Americans have become more accepting of marriages between people of different races and ethnicities, even within their own families.
Asian and Latino newlyweds are, by far, the most likely to intermarry in the U.S, according to the report. Nearly 3 in 10 Asian newlyweds (29 percent) intermarried in 2015, compared to 27 percent of Latinos.
Meanwhile, the most significant increases in intermarriage occurred among African-Americans. The study showed that the share of Black Americans who married someone of a different race or ethnicity has jumped from 5 percent to 18 percent since 1980, a more than three-fold increase. However, the study revealed stark disparities in the rate of intermarriage among African-American men and women, showing that Black men are almost two times as likely as Black women to enter into an interracial marriage.
Moreover, 24 percent of newly wed Back men are married to someone of a different race, compared to just 12 percent of recently married Black women. This gendered trend was similar among Asian newlyweds, too, but Asian women are far more likely to marry outside their race than their male counterparts.
Rates of intermarriage among whites saw a significant increase as well, with numbers rising from 4 percent to 11 percent, the report showed. White men and women also tend to marry other races at about the same rate (10 percent and 12 percent, respectively).
The Pew Research Center study also examined trends in intermarriage in several major U.S. cities, finding that newlyweds living in metropolitan areas are more likely to be intermarried than those in non-metro areas. There are multiple reasons for this, researchers said, pointing to attitudinal differences concerning race and the racial and ethnic makeup of each area.
“Non-metro areas have a relatively large share of white newlyweds (83 percent vs. 62 percent in metro areas), and whites are far less likely to intermarry than those of other races and ethnicities,” according to the study. “At the same time, metro areas have larger shares of Hispanics and Asians, who have very high rates of intermarriage.”
Researchers went on to rank more than 100 metropolitan areas by percentage of newlywed interracial couples, with cities including Honolulu, Hawaii (42 percent); Las Vegas (31 percent), and Santa-Maria/Santa Barbara, Calif. (30 percent) among the top 10 metros in the U.S. where intermarriage is most common. On the other hand, Greensboro, N.C. (9 percent), Scranton, Pa. (9 percent), and Baton Rouge, La,. (8 percent), among others, ranked in the bottom 10 cities where intermarried couples are rare.
“[This] says just how racially divided our community is, just how much we’re protecting it and perpetuating it … protecting whiteness and keeping the community divided,” Maxine Crump, the president and CEO of Dialogue on Race Louisiana, told The Advocate.
Lori Martin, an associate professor in African and African-American studies and sociology at Louisiana State University agreed, adding that increased interaction among different races and ethnic groups is key to addressing racism.
“We tend to romanticize marriage, and we think that people just happen to fall in love, and love is blind, [but] the research shows that is just not the case,” Martin told the newspaper. “If there’s not a lot of interaction, a lot of the information [people] get about people who may be different to them come from their followers on Twitter, mass media and pop culture.
“You’re likely to have a very distorted group and, perhaps, see them undesirable as employees, friends, neighbors, and, of course, as partners.”
Other key findings of the May 2017 study included:
- The most common racial or ethnic pairing among newlywed intermarried couples is one Hispanic and one white spouse (42 percent). Next most common are one white and one Asian spouse (15 percent) and one white and one multiracial spouse (12 percent).
- Among Black newlyweds, the gender gap in intermarriage increases with education: For those with a high school education or less, 17 percent of men vs. 10 percent of women are intermarried, while among those with a bachelor’s degree, Black men are more than twice as likely as Black women to intermarry (30 percent vs. 13 percent).
- Among newlyweds, intermarriage is most common for those in their 30s (18 percent).