Why the Increase in Interracial Marriage Doesn’t Mean a Decrease in Racism

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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

kissing-outdoorsWhat 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?

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Traits of the Equal Relationship

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Many people hope that their relationship or marriage will be one that is mutually supportive — a relationship of equals. Less actually achieve an equal partnership because they or their relationship lack the essential traits to support a mutual relationship.

What are some of the basic features of an equal relationship or marriage, and an equal partner? Ideas about equality in relationships vary, but what follows is a compilation of the most mentioned traits from studies, surveys, and polls across the world.

  • Conflict

It may come as a surprise that conflict is found in the most equitable relationships. But shouldn’t these relationships have the least conflict? Not really.

Conflict in itself is not what promotes equality — it is the ability to accept and manage conflict that creates an equal partnership. If one partner refuses to discuss their differences or is unskilled at handling conflict, the other half will be forced to compromise for the sake of the relationship. This may happen several times in the course of a relationship, and inequality is created.

  • Androgyny

Research has found that a combination of masculine and feminine traits in both partners helps in creating equality. In addition, androgyny is correlated with overall marital satisfaction.

Androgyny makes one more comfortable with expressing or taking on roles typically assigned to the other gender. A male partner, for example, will see no issue in expressing his feelings directly, or helping out with household chores.

  • Belief in Nurture

One aspect that has been found repeatedly in equally, mutually satisfying relationships is a belief that nurture plays a stronger role in creating human personality and behavior than does nature. In other words, few “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus” supporters find themselves in equal relationships.

A fundamental part of establishing an equal relationship is the believing that men and women aren’t locked into different, unequal mindsets and skills. It is easy for a guy to dismiss his partner’s feelings as unimportant if he believes that women are innately over-emotional.

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Physical Attractiveness in Relationships

physical-attractiveness-relationshipsLet’s try this again — slightly revised.

How important is the physical appearance of a partner or potential partner? Do levels of physical attractiveness play a small, moderate, or large part in determining who you would consider a potential mate or how happy you are with your current partner?

Physical attraction is an important factor in my choice of mates. I can not date, let alone have a long-term relationship with someone I don’t find physically attractive. Other aspects such as mental compatibility and general personality are taken into account, but the physical appearance of a person is as strong an influence.

It is widely believed that physical attractiveness plays a key role in the creation of new relationships. The way a person looks is often the first thing you notice about them, long before you learn of their personality and character, and their looks can be the reason you initiate contact or not. This idea has been given more weight due to studies with results that support.

Generally in new relationships, partners are matched in terms of relative physical attractiveness. And the more attractive their partner is, the more satisfied a person is in their relationships. Men place a higher significance on the physical attractiveness of their partner, than do women although women still count the physical appearance of their partner as important. Overall, physical attractiveness has a positive effect in new relationships — the higher it is, relatively speaking, the better both partners rate their relationship.

But what happens when a relationship is no longer new? Does physical appearance still play such a crucial part in the stability and happiness of an established relationship such as marriage?

It turns out that physical attractiveness is still connected to levels of happiness and stability in marriage, but not nearly as much as in less established relationships. Also, the importance of physical attraction, and its effects, differ based on gender.

In one study, husbands who were rated as more attractive than their wives by outsiders tended to be less satisfied with their marriage, and behaved negatively in their marriages. In contrast, in marriages where wives were rated as more attractive than their husbands, both partners behaved positively and were more happy. There was no noticeable effect if both partners were similarly attractive.

Taken together, studies on physical attractiveness in relationships and marriage suggest several ideas. One idea is that physical attractiveness is  highly important in new relationships, and less so in established relationships. Yet, physical attractiveness remains as important for men in terms of satisfaction in their relationships.

One thing which is certain is that physical attraction, and a partner’s physical attractiveness, is significant to the health and happiness of a relationship.

How important is physical attractiveness in your relationships? Was physical appeal a major reason for your attraction to your partner or past partner?

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Relationships and Class Consciousness

relationship-economicsAs much as I’d like to think that income and social status have no influence on who I choose to date or enter into a relationship with, there is a question mark when I look back at my past relationships. If socioeconomic status has no bearing on who I become interested in or view as a potential partner, why has this aspect stayed virtually the same throughout my life?

The lack of variability in social and economic status could be a function of circumstance and environment: like attracts like, and society divides along income and profession. I’ve rarely been in the position to date a man of a lower social status. In the cases I have, the guy’s education or intelligence more than made up for his lack of income or acquired wealth. In the balance between social and economic factors, all was even.

Being a woman, this sort of pattern is expected. Since most people believe that women care more about a man’s bank account (or future bank account) than his heart or mind, my relationship patterns would reflect the average woman’s. But it’s been my experience that my background is not the norm: many women date men of a lower economic status than themselves.

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Interracial Marriage and Divorce: The Study

When the topic of interracial dating and marriage is examined, often cited are statistics on the relative frequency of certain marriages, especially compared to others. But what about the durability of these unions? Are interracial marriages more likely to end in divorce than are same-race marriages?

Earlier studies have concluded that, overall, interracial marriages have less duration than same-race marriages. Some of the studies concluded, however, that factors such as educational level (as educational level goes up, the likelihood divorce goes down) and the age at marriage (marriages occurring earlier in life are more likely to end in divorce) had more bearing on the stability of these marriages than the racial differences of the individuals; members of interracial pairings are more likely to have traits correlated with a higher probability of divorce. However, these studies failed to account for gender in connection with the race of each individual in interracial marriages. A recent study published by the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) explored this aspect in interracial couples in the United States.

Using data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, the study analyzed almost 6,000 men and women between the ages of 15-44 who had ever been married, over a period of ten years. Their study found that:

  • Marriages involving a black husband and white wife were twice as likely to divorce as marriages involving a white husband and white wife. When adjusted for background aspects such as age at marriage and educational level, differences between black male/white female marriages and white male/white female marriages virtually disappeared in some cases. This suggests that, contrary to prior findings, the higher rate of interracial divorce between black male/white female marriages is not due to background factors.
  • Asian male/white female marriages were 59 percent more likely to end in divorce than white male/white female marriages.
  • Marriages involving a white husband and black wife were substantially less likely to end in divorce than marriages involving a white husband and white wife; the former pairing’s divorce rate was 44 percent less than the latter.
  • Couples composed of a white husband and Asian wife were 4 percent more likely to end in divorce than marriages involving a white husband and white wife.
  • Hispanic white/non-Hispanic white and Asian/white marriages were more liable to divorce than those of in-married Hispanic whites and Asians.
  • Marriages including a black husband and white wife were more prone to divorce than those composed of black husbands and black wives. Black male/white female couples also had the highest likelihood of divorce of all white/non-white marriages.
  • While interracial marriage correlates to a higher rate of divorce, this parallel applies mainly to marriages involving a non-white male and white female.

This study seems to both contradict and confirm popular beliefs about  gender, race and marriage. What do you think of the results? Do you agree or disagree with the findings? What factors could be influencing the striking gender differences in divorce rates of interracial couples?

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Hyphenated Surnames and Stay-at-Home Moms

battle-of-sexesIn several of the discussions between AJ and me about marriage and family life, the issue of names has come up. More than once in such conversations, he has expressed that he would never agree to my hyphenating the last names of me and our children. AJ believes that a wife and children having double last names shows that the woman “wears the pants” in the marriage and heaven forbid anyone, especially himself, think of him as an emasculated, purse-toting pansy! Since I rather like his name and have no desire to hyphenate my married surname, his opinions don’t bother me. However, I find his strong reaction to this idea to be strange. Is a woman wishing to keep her last name upon marriage asserting her will over her husband’s? I’d never thought so, but his ideas add another perspective to the matter.

Another marriage and family life issue that we’ve recently discussed is that of a wife being a stay-at-home mother. I have little desire to be a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), but I admire them. It is no easy task to take care of children, cook, and keep the home in general order; it sure seems more difficult than many 9-5 jobs. I wish my mother would have stayed at home, at least for my first few years, instead of hiring the nanny from hell to take care of me (more on that at a later date), and I plan on taking a leave of absence from my career for my children’s years before schooling. Bringing up the topic with AJ, however, I was quickly notified that telling a man you’re dating that you want to be a stay-at-home mom is essentially telling him that you want to leech off him and his hard work for the rest of your life. I didn’t think so: is a woman who dedicates her life to taking care of your children, cooking your meals, and cleaning your clothes, a blood-sucking parasite or a welcome helping hand?

What are your thoughts on stay-at-home mothers and hyphenated last names? Do you know anyone who does either?

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