“About 15% of all new marriages in the United States in 2010 were from spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another, more than double the share in 1980 (6.7%)”. This large jump made me ask myself “why the sudden change in the numbers of interracial marriage in the United States?” What has caused these changes and what are the effects of interracial marriage? Marriage is a large part of society, which is why it is important to understand its patterns and its consequences. From my research, it can be understood that some view interracial marriage as a step forward while others disagree and wish to keep the races separated as it has been in the past. My goal is to present both sides of the argument as well as to answer the previously stated questions in order to fully understand the benefits of interracial marriage to society as well as its costs.
Through my sources, it can be found that over time, the rates of intermarriage have increased drastically due to the public’s view of intermarriage. Looking at recent studies conducted by Wendy Wang, a senior researcher at Pew Research Center, interracial marriage is becoming more acceptable in society. Her article states, “nearly two/thirds of Americans (63%) say it ‘would be fine’ with them if a member of their own family were to marry someone outside their racial or ethnic group” (Wang 3). According to Dr. Michael Lewis, a professor at the School of Psychology at Cardiff University, the number of interracial marriages began to increase and was only able to increase due to the repeal of the anti-miscegenation laws in 1967 (Lewis 1). These laws enforced racial segregation within marriage as well as with intimate relationships. People who did not abide by these laws would be given criminal violations. More research concluded that “attitudes and preferences” towards interracial marriage plays a large role in the numbers of interracial marriage. Feng Hou, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Victoria, studied interracial marriage in Canada and the United States and compared the information he gained. He states that one reason for the higher number of intermarriage in Canada than the United States is “attitudes and preferences” towards interracial marriage in these countries. “According to surveys, about 92% of Canadians and 77% of Americans have a favorable attitude towards black-white intermarriage. Almost 95% of Canadians approve of Asian-white intermarriage in comparison to two-thirds of Americans.” He believes that this difference could be due to the positive attitudes about black-white marriage in Canada, which shows a higher rate of black exogamy (the custom of marrying outside of a community, clan, or tribe) (Hou 1592).
A positive view of intermarriage is growing in the U.S., but not all people view intermarriage to be a good thing. Samuel L. Perry, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Oklahoma, tried to understand the other side of the argument. His main goal with his research was to answer, “How does the convergence of national and religious identities potentially fortify white racial boundaries in the United States of America?” He found that ‘Christian nationalism’ plays a large role in interracial marriage. Perry states that, “Christian nationalism is defined as a ‘blending of Christian and patriotic narratives and iconography that blurs or erases the line between religious and political community and identity.’”. He believes that Christian nationalism potentially fortifies whites’ ‘unwillingness to relax the boundaries of whiteness’. In his research, he studied how comfortable people were with their own children marrying another race. This study was done testing the discomfort of having a hypothetical daughter marry an African American, Latino, or Asian. From this study, he analyzed the role of religion and national identity in interracial marriage (Perry 1672). All five studies concluded that the views of interracial marriage are rapidly changing as people become more accepting of other races. This sudden jump in numbers is due to the decreasing rates of racism. As the newer generations become more open-minded to incorporating other ethnicities into their lifestyles, rates of interracial marriages will continue to drastically increase. Researchers have also found that pressure from society and society’s norms have been a major influence on interracial marriage (Qian 1066).
Societal pressure plays a vital role in determining the numbers of interracial marriage and is a reason for its rapid increase over the years. According to Wang’s research, “more than one-third of Americans (35%) say that a member of their immediate family or a close relative is currently married to someone of a different race” (Wang 2). Interracial marriage has become normal in society today, which is why it is rapidly increasing. In the past, society was not so accepting of interracial marriage. Societal pressure upon the different genders to marry within their ethnic group existed in the past and still does exist today. People would be more encouraged to marry outside their race if there is less societal pressure acting against the formation of interracial marriages. Other than pressure to marry within ones own race, there exist other norms that play a role in intermarriage such as the human anatomy between the races. This explanation proposes height differences between the races affects which race is likely to marry another race. Studies show that Blacks, on average, are taller tan Asians, which could affect mate choice. This goes with the ‘male-superior norm’. This norm is that the male should not be shorter than the female in marriage. This factor alone can affect the patterns of intermarriage (Lewis 3). Hou also found that some other factors that affect the patterns of intermarriage include cultural norms and values as well as social distance and economic inequalities between racial minorities and Whites (Hou 1592).
All five of these researchers found that age, gender, income, and education play a vital role on the rates of interracial marriage. There exists a difference in genders when it comes to marrying other races. Wang found that twice the number of black males marry outside their race compared to black females. She also found the complete opposite with Asians. More than twice the numbers of Asian females marry outside their race compared to Asian males. In addition, among white and Hispanics, intermarriage does not vary by gender. Differences can also be seen between interracial couple’s income and those who marry within their own race. “For example, white/Asian newlyweds of 2008 through 2010 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)” (Wang 2). These differences explain patterns found in interracial marriage.
Another explanation for the patterns found can be explained by the social-exchange theory of marriage. This theory, studied by Michael Lewis, proposes that there can be trade off between one party’s economic wealth and the other’s status. For example, a rich but less physically attractive person might marry an attractive but poorer person. This theory also explains why people tend to marry people who are similar in terms of their educational and/or socioeconomic background. In this theory, race is often described to be a marker of status. An example of this would be a wealthy Black man who marries a poorer White woman. According to this theory, a white woman ‘marries up’ in socioeconomic status. The social exchange is believed to take place between the woman’s racial status for the man’s socioeconomic status or wealth. This is because men tend to be more economically mobile than women, which can explain the gender asymmetries in Black/White interracial marriage (Lewis 3). Hou disagrees with the theories Lewis proposes because he believes that “the relevance of social distance and economic disparities between racial minorities and whites as an explanation of the [differences seen] in intermarriage is hard to ascertain” (Hou 1593). All these reasons explain the sudden change in the patterns of interracial marriage and the factors that affect it. Now it is of importance to understand the effects of interracial marriage on society.
Interracial marriage is a heavily debated topic in media because there is controversy whether its effects are an improvement for society. Evidence from studies conducted by Fu supports that interracial marriage has lead to a decrease in racism, but evidence also shows that there is a higher divorce rate among interracial couples. Some theories to explain these high rates of divorce state that third parties may reduce the “social support” afforded to intermarried couples. Some believe that family members who are more cultured might fear an intermarried couple will be unable to pass on a group’s way of life. This might lead older generations to be less willing to share advice or even share financial and other resources with members of other racial groups. These are several among the many challenges that interracial couples face that leave them more vulnerable to divorce (Fu 1097).
Although there are challenges with interracial marriage, researchers argue that the benefits towards society outweigh the costs. Hou states that intermarriage has proven to be beneficial in decreasing social distance and economic inequalities between whites and racial minorities (Hou 1592). Although the idea of “white purity” still exists, “most observers [believe that] the surge in the number of interracial marriages signals that intergroup social distance has declined and that racial tolerance has grown” (Qian 1066). Geneticists also agree that interracial marriage is beneficial for society because it increases the gene pool. The human race as a whole would be able to become more resistant to disease due to variation. The affect of interracial marriage intertwines with the family dynamic in the U.S. and plays a large role in many aspects of daily life. Marriage ties in with political views, divorce rates, overall happiness in the U.S., child growth, etc. Understanding patterns of marriage has given the U.S. an advantage at understanding the rapidly changing family dynamics (Fu 1097).
Overall, interracial marriage has proven to be one of the most beneficial changes in the U.S. As interracial marriage has increased, racial tensions have decreased. These sudden changes in the patterns of interracial marriage can be traced back to societies views and the changing norms over time. Some may argue that interracial marriage has high divorce rates and that intermixing minimizes racial purity and these statements are true, but I believe that the benefits of interracial marriage outreach the costs. I personally believe that interracial marriage is a chance to learn and understand someone else’s culture. Although there may be differences in beliefs and traditions, there is always room for compromise. In some cases, it is also an opportunity for a child to learn two languages. There will always be pressure from society or even ones own parents to marry within ones own race. This would be the easier route, but one would miss out on an opportunity to widen their understanding of a different culture and race. Interracial marriage is the solution to a better tomorrow.
Fu, Vincent Kang, and Nicholas H Wolfinger. "Broken Boundaries or Broken Marriages? Racial Intermarriage and Divorce in the United States." Social Science Quarterly 92.4 (2011): 1096-117. Web.
Hou, Feng, Zheng Wu, Christoph Schimmele, and John Myles. "Cross-country Variation in Interracial Marriage: A USA–Canada Comparison of Metropolitan Areas." Ethnic and Racial Studies 38.9 (2015): 1591-609. Web.
Lewis, Michael B., and Etienne Joly. "A Facial Attractiveness Account of Gender Asymmetries in Interracial Marriage (Interracial Marriage)." PLoS ONE 7.2 (2012): E31703. Print.
Perry, Samuel L., and Andrew L. Whitehead. "Christian Nationalism and White Racial Boundaries: Examining Whites' Opposition to Interracial Marriage." Ethnic and Racial Studies 38.10 (2015): 1671-689. Web.
Qian, Zhenchao, and Lichter, Daniel T. "Changing Patterns of Interracial Marriage in a Multiracial Society." Journal of Marriage and Family 73.5 (2011): 1065-084. Web.
Wang, Wendy. "The Rise of Intermarriage." NUMBERS, FACTS AND TRENDS SHAPING YOUR WORLD. Pew Research Center, 16 Feb. 2012. Web. 22 Oct. 2015.