Study finds 15 percent of marriages in 2010 were interracial

By Nancy Pierce

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The commonality of interracial marriage is increasing, according to a study done by the Pew Research Center, which showed 15 percent of all just-married couples in the U.S. in 2010 consist of partners of different racial or ethnic identity.

The study, “The Rise of Intermarriage,” was written and researched by Wendy Wang, research associate at the Social and Demographic Trends project at Pew Research Center. The data was collected largely by analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey in 2008-2010 and public surveys conducted by Pew.

The percentage of interracial marriages in 2010 was about 15 percent, more than double the 1980 statistic of 6.7 percent, according to the summary of the study by Wang.

The study found that in 2010, Asians were the most likely to marry outside of their identified ethnicity at 28 percent, while 26 percent of Hispanics, 17 percent of African-Americans and nine percent of Caucasians married outside their racial identity.

“The research we’ve done points to a combination of increase in Asian and Hispanic immigrants in recent decades and changing public attitudes,” said Wang about the reason for increased intermarriages.

Wang spoke about the poll they conducted which concluded that nearly two out of three Americans were accepting of a family member marrying outside of their identified race.

When comparing the attitudes toward Americans now to the past, Wang cited a poll conducted in 1986 finding that only one in three Americans viewed it as acceptable.

Wang said the research found among newly-wed couples in 2008-2010 indicated that whites who married an Asian spouse were more likely to be college educated than whites who married within their racial identity.

Wang said the research found that Asians in general have a somewhat higher educational level than the other groups. Among newly-wed Asians, 53 percent had a college degree, compared to 23 percent of white newly-wed couples and 10 percent African-American couples.

UMass sophomore and chemical engineering major Stephanie Butler is currently in an interracial relationship with her boyfriend Chuck Haggerty.

Butler identifies herself as half Filipino and half Irish-American. She said her boyfriend identifies as white. They’ve been together for around three weeks, but were good friends prior to their relationship.

Although Butler and Haggerty identify as an interracial couple, Butler noted she has not noticed any cultural differences resulting from their disparate ethnicities. In fact, Butler said she noticed more similarities.

“We really don’t even see the difference,” she said.

Butler said her boyfriend’s dad is married to a Chinese woman so they are actually able to relate on a cultural level with certain things. She gave the example of enjoying the same type of food. She said her boyfriend enjoys when her mom serves him Filipino food.

Haggerty and Butler appreciate the same foods, but also have the same sense of humor and hobbies, said Butler.

Butler said she has not received any negativity toward her relationship with Haggerty.

“I know a lot of interracial marriages and they seem to be working just fine, like my parents for example,” said Butler.

The Pew study concluded that 43 percent of people surveyed believe that intermarriage is good for society. Butler said that society should spend less time categorizing people based on their perceived race.

“No one should feel like they shouldn’t be with someone because they’re a different race,” said Butler.

Butler said she thinks the concept of race is diminishing.

“I think different cultures appreciate their own background but it’s becoming less and less discriminatory,” she said.

“Not tolerance or blindness to race, but we don’t have to be like ‘Oh, that’s an Asian woman or that’s a white person’…everyone’s the same in my eyes.”

Nancy Pierce can be reached at [email protected].