More Americans are forming serious relationships across lines of race and ethnicity, moving in with or marrying people who check a different box on their census form. Married or unmarried, interracial couples were more than twice as common in 2012 than in 2000, U.S. Census Bureau data show.
Yet not all kinds of relationships are as likely to cross those lines. Racially and ethnically mixed couples are much more common among Americans who are living together, unmarried, than those who have tied the knot, a Census Bureau analysis released last week shows.
Last year, 9% of unmarried couples living together came from different races, compared with about 4% of married couples. The same gap exists for Latinos—who are not counted as a race by the Census Bureau—living with or marrying people who aren’t Latino.
Earlier studies have shown that even among younger couples, Americans are more likely to cross racial lines when they move in together than when they marry. Scholars are still puzzling over why, musing that interracial couples may face added barriers to marrying—or may be less impatient to do so.
Many older Americans, especially whites, are still uneasy about interracial marriage, a Pew Research Center study released three years ago showed. Only about half of white respondents ages 50 to 64 said they would be fine with one of their relatives marrying someone of any other race or ethnicity.
Several scholars—and couples themselves—suggested people who are open to finding love outside their own race may be more willing to buck tradition by waiting to marry or not marrying at all.
“If you’re less traditional” in general, said Daniel T. Lichter, director of the Cornell Population Center, “maybe you’re more accepting of an interracial romance.”