Since the Pew Research Center published their 2012 report on recent interracial marriages in the United States, the country has been abuzz with more news of the ever-increasing rise in interracial marriage. Most people and articles on the topic take a clearly positive view of this increase, claiming that rise in interracial marriage indicates that the United States is moving forward, towards becoming a society where race and ethnicity are less of an issue.
Between the fact that nearly 1 in 6 marriages in 2010 were between members of different ascribed races and our black/mixed president of interracial parentage, surely no one can deny that the United States is becoming a post-racial society, if it hasn’t already become one?
Except some people, such as myself, don’t think it’s that simple. Behind the overall increase in interracial marriage lurks some noteworthy data, data which seems to contradict the idea of the United States as a place where racial stereotypes are decreasing in importance. And besides all the positive aspects of a rise in interracial marriage, is a less prejudiced society really one of them? Can interracial marriage alone eradicate racism in a society founded upon racial thought? Judge for yourself:
1. Interracial marriage is not equal between genders
As most people recognize, interracial marriage rates tend to be quite skewed by gender — men and women of the various races interracially marriage in different proportions. Newlywed marriages echo these stark differences: not much has changed.
Following previous patterns, Asian women and non-Asian men married at more than twice the rate that Asian men and non-Asian women married in 2010. The difference between the interracial marriages of black men and non-black women and black women and non-black women is the same — black men married out at more than twice the rate of black women.
So while there was an overall rise in interracial marriage, long-held differences in gender remain. But these numbers also show another, just as important difference…
2. The increase in interracial marriage is mainly among those with already high interracial rates
What all the positive discussion about the rise of interracial marriage seems to leave out is that the growth in interracial marriage is mostly reflective of an increase among those with already relatively large interracial marriage rates. Others remained the same or even decreased.
Interracial marriage among Hispanic men and women rose slightly in 2010 to over a quarter, closing matching earlier years. Interracial marriage among black men, however, rose nearly 2 percent from 2008 — the largest increase of any ethnic/gender combination. A small percentage at first glance, this addition equals nearly 1 in 4 newlywed black men. This is over three times as much as the growth in interracial marriage for their female counterparts, at an increase of 0.5 percent.
Asian interracial marriage surprisingly saw noticeable declines in 2010, with both showing about a 3 percent decrease. In fact, the only population with an increase which was fairly equal among the genders was white men and women.
Now, what does this all mean? For starters, it suggest that the increase in interracial marriage doesn’t mean an increase for everyone. But also that the rise in interracial marriage may mean not the dying away of racially motivated thinking and racial barriers, but a strengthening of them: Differences in interracial marriage in 2010 closely follow those that can be seen in years, and even decades before, only in larger numbers.
So, is the overall increase in interracial marriage a “good” thing? In most areas, yes. But does it show a great change in America’s racial climate? Not as much as we are led to believe.
What do you think of the increase in interracial marriage over the past couple of years?
- The Rise of Intermarriage — Pew Research Center’s report
- Yet Another Interracial Online Dating Study
- Colorblindness and Other Myths About Interracial Dating