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1 in 7 New Marriages Are Now Interracial—But Biases Still Linger 1 in 7 New Marriages Are Now Interracial—But Biases Still Linger

1 in 7 New Marriages Are Now Interracial—But Biases Still Linger

by Nona Willis Aronowitz
February 19, 2012


According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, almost 15 percent of all new American marriages in 2008 were between people of two different races. There are now 4.8 million interracial marriages in the United States—about 1 in 12 marriages. That number has doubled in the past 30 years, and has risen especially sharply among black populations. Our acceptance threshold is rising too—about 83 percent of Americans say it is "all right for blacks and whites to date each other," compared with 48 percent in 1987. And 63 percent of those surveyed say it "would be fine" if a family member were to get hitched to someone of a different race. Young people actively approve of the trend; almost two-thirds of of Millennials said mixed-race families were "good for society."

But that doesn't mean that all races—or genders—are intermarrying at the same rate. Twenty-two percent of all black male newlyweds in 2008 married outside their race, compared with just nine percent of black females. Meanwhile, a full 40 percent of Asian female newlyweds married a person of another race in 2008, compared with just 20 percent of Asian males. (The gender differences were negligible with white and Hispanics.)

So, yes, we've come a long way from Loving v. Virginia, but that doesn't mean racial stereotypes and biases have ceased to exist, even among those who choose to marry outside their race. There are still well-documented prejudices about the oft-fetishized docility of Asian women, the marriageability (or lack thereof) of black women, and the virility (or lack thereof) of both black and Asian men. No matter how much we tout the melting pot concept, our "personal preferences" are often tinged with ingrained stereotypes. And social pressures still do affect interracial marriages; the study found they were more likely to end in divorce. Intermarriage may no longer be illegal or even taboo, but it's still wrapped up in our deeply rooted cultural biases.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Mike Licht.

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