Niala Boodhoo, WBEZ, August 29, 2012
Who you date — as well as who you marry — is one of the most intensely personal decisions someone makes. So it’s easy to overlook the broader role society, culture and yes, even race plays in that decision.
Hardy Kim is a second generation Korean-American. He grew up in Gross Pointe, Michigan, and now lives in Oak Park. From an early age, he was told he needed to marry a Korean woman. So naturally, he rebelled.
“I didn’t necessarily say to myself, I wouldn’t marry a Korean-American woman, but I definitely thought, there’s no way I am going to marry a woman straight from Korea,” he said.
Marriage rates across the U.S. are generally declining. But they’re still high for Asian-Americans. As one of the smallest racial minorities here, it’s not that surprising Asians have some of the highest rates of interracial marriage. But Asian-American women are twice as likely as their male counterparts to marry outside their race.
C.N. Le’s a sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He said that if you look at marriage from a traditional standpoint, many people have viewed it as a way to become more economically successful — or at least, stable.
“So you would think based on that sort of traditional motivation women would marry the most socioeconomically successful men. If that were the sole criteria, then Asian-American men would be near the top of the list,” he said.
But — they’re not. Asian-American men are second only to black women for having the lowest rates of interracial marriage.
Le thinks at least part of this is due to pervasive cultural stereotypes. You know them: Asian-American men are at best nerdy, at worst, neutered or not masculine enough. Le says that creates what he calls a “cultural penalty” in the dating world. And then he cited research that actually quantifies this.
“In crunching the numbers, they found on an aggregate level, Latino men have to make something like $70,000 more than a comparable white man for a white woman to be open to dating them,” he said, adding for African-American men, that figure is closer to $120,000.
For Asian-American men? It’s $250,000 more than a comparable white male would make.