George E. Curry, June 14, 2010
Most news stories about a new study showing that 22 percent of Black male newlyweds and 9 percent of African-American females marry outside their race neglected to report another major finding: When Whites, Hispanics and Asians decide to marry outside their group, African-Americans rank last in their choice of mates.
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.
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 African-American newlyweds [who married a non-black], 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 Black 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 married a non-Black and 8.9 percent of African-American women.
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.
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.
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 on 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.
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.