Interracial marriage

Interracial marriage occurs when two people of differing racial groups marry. This is a form of exogamy (marrying outside of one's social group) and can be seen in the broader context of miscegenation (mixing of different racial groups in marriage, cohabitation, or sexual relations).

Legality of interracial marriage

While it is now legal in most countries, certain jurisdictions have had regulations banning or restricting interracial marriage in the past. These included South Africa under apartheid; Germany in the Nazi period; and many states of the United States, particularly in the South. In both Nazi Germany and certain American states, such laws have been closely linked to eugenics programs.The Scary Science Of Sir Francis Galton And Jonathan Wells :: CESE :: Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education

United States

In Social Trends in America and Strategic Approaches to the Negro Problem (1948), Gunnar Myrdal ranked the social areas where restrictions were imposed by Southern whites on the freedom of African-Americans through racial segregation from the least to the most important: jobs, courts and police, politics, basic public facilities, "social equality" including dancing, handshaking, and most important, marriage. This ranking scheme seems to explain the way in which the barriers against desegregation fell. Of less importance was the segregation in basic public facilities, which was abolished with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The most tenacious form of legal segregation, the banning of interracial marriage, was not fully lifted until the last anti-miscegenation laws were struck down in 1967 by the Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia.


The number of interracial marriages in the United States has been on the rise: from 310,000 in 1970, to 651,000 in 1980, and 1,161,000 in 1992, according to the US Census of 1993. Interracial marriages represented 0.7% of all marriages in 1970, rising to 1.3% in 1980 and 2.2% in 1992. With the introduction of the mixed-race category, the 2000 census revealed interracial marriage to be somewhat more widespread, with 2,669,558 interracial marriages recorded, or 4.9% of all marriages.. It should be noted that these statistics do not take into account ethnic groups within the same broad categories - for example a marriage involving a person of Japanese origin and a person of Indian origin would not be considered 'mixed'. Nor is hispanic status taken into account.

title=Table FG4. Married Couple Family Groups, by Presence of Own Children/1 In Specific Age Groups, and Age, Earnings, Education, and Race and Hispanic Origin/2 of Both Spouses: 2006| }}.

White Wife Black Wife Asian Wife Other Wife
White Husband 50,224,000 117,000 530,000 489,000
Black Husband 286,000 3,965,000 34,000 45,000
Asian Husband 174,000 6,000 2,493,000 13,000
Other Husband 535,000 23,000 41,000 558,000

Based on these statistics:

Intermarriage by ethnic groups

Native American and Asian

Historically, Filipino Americans have frequently married Native American and Alaskan Native people. In the 17th century, Filipinos were under Spanish rule. The Spanish colonists ordered the Filipinos to trade between the Philippines and the Americas. When Mexico revolted against the Spanish, Filipinos escaped into Mexico, then traveled to Louisiana, where the exclusively male Filipinos married Native American women. In the 1920s, Filipino American communities grew in Alaska, and Filipino American men married Alaskan Native women. On the west coast, Filipino Americans married Native American women in Bainbridge Island Washington.

Asian and White

Marriages between whites and Asians are becoming increasingly common for both gender combinations (Lange, 2005). In 1990, about 69 percent of married 18-30 year-old Asian women were married to Asian men, while 25 percent of married Asian women had white husbands. In 2006, 50 percent of U.S.-raised, married Asian women were married to Asian men, while 41 percent of U.S.-raised, married Asian women had white husbands. 60 percent of U.S.-raised married Asian men were married to Asian women, while 30 percent of U.S.-raised, married Asian men had white wives (2006 U.S. Census Bureau). C.N. Le estimated that the gender gap is smaller among the American-born or 1.5 generation Asian Americans. Asian Americans of both genders who are U.S.-raised are much more likely to be married with whites than their non-U.S.-raised counterparts. Not all Asian ethnicities have similar intermarriage patterns, for instance, South Asian Americans were overwhelmingly endogamous, with a small amount of outmarriage to other ethnic groups. The interracial marriage disparity for South Asian Americans was low with outmarriage to whites slightly higher for Indian American males whereas all other major Asian groups had more outmarriage for women. A 2001 U.S. national survey conducted by Yankelovich Partners in collaboration with the Anti-Defamation League indicated that 24% of the respondents disapprove of marriage with an Asian American.

Black and White

Although mixed-race partnering has increased, the United States still shows disparities between African American male and African American female endogamy statistics. The 1990 census reports that 17.6% of African American marriages occur with White Americans. Yet, African American men are 2.6 times more likely to be married to White American women than African American women to White American men. In the 2000 census, 239,477 African American male to White American female and 95,831 European American male to African American female marriages were recorded, again showing the 2.5-1 ratio. In 2007, black-white marriage remains a rare event: 4.6% of married Blacks marry whites, and 0.4% of married whites marry blacks.

Asian and Black

With African Americans and Asian Americans, the ratios are even further imbalanced, with 598% more Asian female/Black male marriages than Asian male/Black female marriages. However, C.N. Le estimated that Asian Americans of the 1.5 generation and of the five largest Asian American ethnic groups had black male/Asian female marriages 272% more than Asian male/black Female relationships. Even though the disparity between Black and Asian interracial marriages by gender is high according to the 2000 US Census, the total numbers of Asian/Black interracial marriages are low, numbering only 0.22% percent for Asian male marriages and 1.30% percent of Asian female marriages, partially contributed by the recent flux of Asian immigrants. Filipinos appear to be the Asian group most likely to marry African-Americans.

Historically, Chinese American men married African American women in high proportions to their total marriage numbers due to few Chinese American women being in the United States. After the Emancipation Proclamation, many Chinese people immigrated to the American South, particularly Arkansas, to work on plantations. The tenth US Census of Louisiana counted 57% of interracial marriages between these Chinese Americans to be with African Americans and 43% to be with European American women. After the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese American men had fewer potential Chinese American wives, so they increasingly married African American women on the West Coast. In Jamaica and other Caribbean nations as well many Chinese males over past generations took up Black female wives gradually assimilating or absorbing many Chinese descendants into the black community or the overall mixed-race community.

Native American and White

The interracial disparity for Native Americans is low. According to the 1990 US Census (which only counts indigenous people with US-government-recognized tribal affiliation), Native American women intermarried white Americans 2% more than Native American men married White women.

Marriage squeeze

A new term has arisen to describe the social phenomenon of the so-called "marriage squeeze" for African American females. The marriage squeeze refers to the belief that the most eligible and desirable African American men are marrying non-African American women, leaving those African American women who wish to marry African American men with fewer partnering options. According to Newsweek, 43% of black women between the ages of 30-34 have never been married. Several explanations of this phenomenon have been advanced. It may be due to the lingering effects of social ostracism to which white American men who married African American women were subjected in the past. A 2006 survey found that the number of white Americans would consider marrying across the colour line is one in five. It may also be the result of a desire among African American women to marry African American men due to concepts such as racial loyalty, and the internalized stereotypical belief that non-African American men would not find them attractive. There is also the lingering belief that negative social stereotypes preclude them being viewed as anything but sexual objects by non-African American men. Lastly, there is a desire among educated women of all races to "marry up" or at least within their social and economic class. With the great disparity that exists between African American women and African American men in this respect, black women often face either "marrying down" or not marrying at all, when they choose to restrict their marriage prospects to African American men. Another confounding factor for African American women may be the disproportionate mortality rate between men and women in the black community: there are only approximately 85 males for every 100 females by the time they reach their child-bearing years. Also, rates of incarceration for marriage age African American males are far higher than rates for females, further contributing to the male/female gap. As of 2002, 10.4% of all black males between the ages of 25 and 29 were sentenced and in prison. The African American male-female disparity is highest between the ages of 25 - 29, when for every two African American men there are nearly three African American women.

Education and interracial marriage

Using PUMS data from both the 1980 and 1990 US Census to determine trends within interracial marriage among white Americans, African Americans, and Asian Americans, it may be seen that endogamy (marrying within race) was more prevalent for African American men at lower education levels.

In 1980, the numbers were as follows: African American males without a high-school diploma participated in endogamy at 96.5%; for those who received a high-school diploma, 95.6%; for those with a college degree and above, the percentage of endogamy dropped to 94.0%. However, the rates for African American women changed very little with different educational levels. For the African American woman who had not received a high school diploma the rate was 98.7%, high school diploma was 98.6%, with some college it was 98.2%, and college degree or higher, 98.5%. During this time there was a significant increase in marriages between whites and African Americans, maintaining that African Americans are most likely to marry whites over other groups.

The 1990 results show that rates of endogamy dropped for both males and females, albeit more for the African American male. In 1990, an African American male with a college degree and more was participating in endogamy at 90.4%; for an African American female with the same educational level, 96.4%. The results for the propensity of individuals at higher educational attainment levels to participate less in endogamy over the 10-year period were similar across races, including whites, Hispanics, and Asian Americans.

Immigrants and interracial marriage

Racial endogamy is much stronger for immigrants as compared to natives. Immigrants of African descent are 4.9 times more likely than African Americans to marry interracially. Additionally, immigrants of African descent have the highest rates of endogamy of immigrants. Also, African immigrants are much more likely to marry other same-race immigrants and African Americans, than to out-marry racially. Native-born white Americans are also 1.6 times more likely to marry a native-born black American than an immigrant of African descent. Female immigrants of African descent are generally more likely to marry native-born whites than their male counterparts.

Interracial marriage versus cohabitation

Rates of interracial cohabitation are significantly higher than those of marriage. Although only 7 percent of married black men have white wives, 13 percent of cohabitating black men have white partners. Black women are one-and-a-half times more likely to cohabitate with a white partner than to marry him. 25 percent of married Asian women have white spouses, but 45 percent of cohabitating Asian women are with white men-higher than the percentage cohabitating with Asian men (44 percent). These numbers suggest that the prevalence of intimate interracial contact is greatly underestimated when one focuses only on marriage data.


Indian (Asian) men have married many African women in Africa. Indians have long been traders in East Africa. The British Empire brought workers into East Africa to build the Uganda Railway. Indians eventually populated South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Rhodesia and Zaire in small numbers. These interracial unions were mostly unilateral marriages between Indian men and East African women.


In 2005 there were slightly more marriages by Australian resident women (13,079) to foreign born partners than Australian resident men (12,714). Australian born males and female residents who married that year were most likely to have married an Australian-born partner (84.1% of marriages involving Australian men; 83.7% of marriages involving Australian females). Male Australian residents who were born in China and were married in 2005 were least likely to have married an Australian-born resident (only 3.1% of marriages involving a Chinese born groom were to an Australian-born bride). Female Australian residents who were born in Vietnam and were married in 2005 were least likely to have married an Australian-born resident (only 15.7% of marriages involving a Vietnamese born bride were to an Australian-born groom). Only 8.8% of males, and 11% of females, who were American born, Australian resident and married in 2005, married another person from the United States.

In terms of variance between brides and grooms from particular countries in marrying native Australians, 36.7% of brides but only 7.9% of grooms born in countries defined as 'North Asia' (Japan and Korea) who married in 2005 did so to an Australian-born partner. Conversely, 64.1% of grooms but only 43.8% of brides born in Lebanon who married in 2005 did so to an Australian-born partner.


In 2003 there were 36,039 international marriages between Japanese and non-Japanese in Japan - about one out of twenty marriages. About 80% of these interracial marriages involved a Japanese male marrying a foreign female (predominantly Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Thai and Brazilian), and 20% involve marriage to a foreign husband (predominantly Korean, American, Chinese, British and Brazilian)Japan-Behind the Scenes.

New Zealand

Interracial marriage has been common in New Zealand since the first full-scale contact between Maori and Europeans in the early 1840s. Racial mingling has been so extensive that most Maori are now of mixed blood. Statistics are not available, because the government does not keep statistics on interraccial marriage or the "percentage" of a person's ethnic makeup.

United Kingdom

As of 2001, 2% of all UK marriages are interethnic. Despite having a much lower non-white population (9%), mixed marriages are as common as in the United States. New Studies are being conducted by London South Bank University called Parenting 'Mixed' Children: Negotiating Difference and Belonging.

Interracial marriage disparities for certain groups

According to the UK 2001 census, Black British males were around 50% more likely than black females to marry outside their race, whereas British Chinese women (30%) were twice as likely as their male counterparts (15%) to marry someone from a different ethnic group. Among British Asians, males were twice as likely to to have an inter-ethnic marriage than their female counterparts.

Case of Seretse Khama

In 1948, an international incident was created when the British government took exception to the marriage of Seretse Khama, kgosi (king) of the Bamangwato people of what was then the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland, to an English woman, Ruth Williams, whom he had met while studying law in London. The interracial marriage sparked a furor among both the tribal elders of the Bamangwato and the apartheid government of South Africa, who could not afford to have an interracial couple ruling just across their northern border, and who therefore immediately exerted pressure to have Khama removed from his chieftainship. Britain's Labour government, then heavily in debt from World War II, could not afford to lose cheap South African gold and uranium supplies. There was also a fear that South Africa might take more direct action against Bechuanaland, through economic sanctions or a military incursion.

External links

See also

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