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Interracial marriage: Who is most likely to 'marry out,' and where

Photo by WolfS♡ul/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A popular Q&A on this site last year explored who is more or less likely to marry outside their own racial or ethnic group, why, and where in the U.S. they are more likely to do it. Now, the Pew Research Center has further distilled the data on multicultural love.

The new Pew report charts the rise of interracial marriage, with the share of new marriages between spouses of different races or ethnicities having gone up to 15.1 % in 2010. The overall share of existing interracial or inter-ethnic marriages stands at 8.4 percent, an all-time high. It's a far cry from 1980, when only 3 percent of all marriages and less than 7 percent of new ones involved partners of different racial or ethnic groups.

Why the difference? Changing demographics play a part, but in its summary, Pew attributes the trend in part also to changing attitudes, with more than four in ten Americans saying that "more people of different races marrying each other has been a change for the better in our society, while only about one-in-ten think it is a change for the worse." Now for the details:

Who marries out most: Likeliest to "marry out" were Asian Americans at 28 percent, followed by Latinos at 26 percent. Black Americans, a group that used to marry out less, followed at 17 percent. Non-Latino whites were still the least likely to marry out, with only 9 percent saying "I do" to someone from another group. (An important note: "White" in this report refers to non-Latino whites, as Hispanic/Latino is an ethnic category on census forms, not a racial one. )

In some groups, who marries out most depends on gender: Black men are much more likely to marry out than black women, and Asian women are much more likely to marry out than Asian men. There's not as much of a gender difference among white and Latino newlyweds who marry outside their group.

White/Asian newlywed couples have more money: Between 2008 and 2010, white/Asian newlyweds had higher median combined annual earnings ($70,952) than other couples, including more than couples in which both partners are white or both are Asian. Who had the most money of these? Couples in which the husband is Asian and the wife is white. Furthermore, more whites who married Asians had college degrees than whites who married whites.

And now the not-so-great news: A piece of data that stings for the implications it carries is that Latino and black newlyweds who marry whites have greater educational attainment. Furthermore, there's a gender/earnings gap when it comes to whites who marry out. White male newlyweds who marry Asian, Latina or black spouses tend to earn more than white male newlyweds who marry a white spouse. But white female newlyweds who marry a Latino or black spouse (unlike those who marry an Asian spouse) tend to earn less. Another piece of bad news: Overall, blended couples are more likely to divorce, although the stats vary.

For mixed marriages, the West is the best: About one in five newlyweds (22 percent) in Western states married someone of a different race or ethnicity between 2008 and 2010. This is much higher than anywhere else, including the South (14 percent), the Northeast (13 percent) and the Midwest (11 percent). The state with the most mixed race/ethnicity marriages? Hawaii, where these accounted for 42 percent of new marriages between 2008 and 2010.

Here's part of the explanation that Andrew Beveridge, the sociologist interviewed in last year's Q&A (and whose work was illustrated in an excellent "Who is marrying whom" graphic in the New York Times) had for the regional differences:

The New York Times was running around Alabama (before the 2008 election) talking to people, and they asked this guy, “Wouldn’t you be more likely to vote for Obama because he is partly white?” But he said no, because “that is the mark.” He believed that is the mark of the devil.

So you may have a situation where you have areas like New York or Los Angeles, where people are less into being whatever, and then you’ve got areas (where it’s not like this). These places don’t have intermarriage, so you’ll have people leaving there. If you’re in Oklahoma and you’re gay, you’ll go to New York or San Francisco or L.A. You’ll migrate.

The entire Pew Research report can be downloaded here.