A study by the Pew Research Center titled, “Marrying Out: One-in-Seven New U.S. Marriages is Interracial or Interethnic,” received widespread national attention. And many saw it as yet another confirmation that Black females are in a no-win predicament when it comes to marriage, especially marriage to another African American.
The Pew study found that a record 14.6 percent of all new marriages in the United States in 2008 were between persons of different racial or ethnic backgrounds, six times the intermarriage rate in 1960 and more than double the rate in 1980.
Here’s the part of the report that most news outlets omitted: “Of the four groups tested in the survey, openness to a family member’s marriage to an African American ranked lowest.”
Looked at another way, even as the country has grown considerably more open-minded about interracial marriages over the last half-century, race still matters.
Of the four groups studied — whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians — whites are least likely to marry outside of their race, which is not surprising, given the advantages of white privilege in the United States.
“Among the estimated 362,000 African Americans who were newlyweds in 2008, nearly one in six (15.5 percent) married someone who was not Black,” the report stated. “The share of out-marriage among men was more than twice the share among women. Some 22 percent of Black male newlyweds in 2008 married someone of a different race or ethnicity, compared with 8.9 percent of Black female newlyweds that same year.”
Among African-American newlyweds, 58 percent married a white person, 23 percent married a Hispanic, 7 percent married an Asian and 13 percent married someone of a mixed race, a Native American, or someone from another race.
Despite the huge gender gap among African Americans, the intergroup marriage pattern between men and women was the same. Nearly 60 percent in each gender married a Caucasian. Nearly a fourth of Black women (24 percent) and 22 percent of African-American men married a Hispanic. Only 7 percent of Black men and 6 percent of African-American women married an Asian.
The gap between the number of African-American men and women marrying non-Blacks is growing. An estimated 1.3 percent of Black males and 0.9 percent of African-American females married outside their race in 1960. By 2008, however, 22 percent of Black males and 8.9 percent of African-American women married a non-Black.
The growing tendency of Black men to marry outside their race, coupled with the overall decline in marriage rates among all groups, is expected to compound the problem of African-American females finding a desired marriage partner.
“In 2007, just 33 percent of Black women ages 30-44 were married, down from 62 percent of the comparable age group in 1970,” the report found. “Among Black men in this age range, just 44 percent were married in 2002, down from 74 percent in 1970.”
The rate for young whites was also down, but not as much as the rate for African Americans. In 2007, 67 percent of white women and 63 percent of white men in the 30-44 age group were married.
Of whites marrying outside their race in 2008, nearly half — 49 percent — married a Hispanic, 18 percent married an Asian, 14 percent married an African American and the remainder married someone from another group.
“Among whites who out-married in 2008, there were different patterns by gender in the race of their spouses,” the report observed. “More than a quarter of white men (27 percent) married an Asian woman, and about 7 percent married a Black woman. In contrast, 20 percent of white women married a Black man, while just 9 percent married an Asian man.”
A slightly higher proportion of white women (51 percent) married a Hispanic than white men (46 percent), the study found.
The 22 percent figure for African-American males outside their race was comparable to the figures for Asian males. Almost a fifth — 19.5 percent — of Asian males took non-Asian brides in 2008. But Asian women were four times more likely than Black women to marry outside their race, with 39.5 percent of them married to someone of a different race or ethnicity.
Among the out-marriage Asian newlyweds, 75 percent married a white person, 12 percent married a Hispanic and only 7 percent married an African American.
The pattern was similar among Hispanics marrying outside their ethnic group. The study reports that 81 percent of Hispanic newlyweds married a white person in 2008. Only 9 percent married an African American and 5 percent married an Asian.
“More than eight in ten (83 percent) Hispanic men who out-married in 2008 married a white spouse, compared to 78 percent of Hispanic women,” the study said. “Among Hispanic female newlyweds who out-married in 2008, some 13 percent married a Black spouse, compared with just 5 percent of Hispanic male newlyweds.”
In the mad rush to point to the growth of interracial marriages as evidence of a more accepting society — such marriages were outlawed in many states until 1967 — the numbers show that race indeed still matters.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge
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