Interracial dating and intermarriage has increased in the last century due to greater human mobility and multiculturalism. It should be remembered that personal preferences and the presence or absence of prejudice are irrelevant to people who are born and die in the same town or city, which was often the case before the invention of the automobile and the jet plane. Before the 20th century, with the exception of soldiers and traders, most people rarely interacted with foreigners.
Even the term “interracial dating” is subject to interpretation. Often people take it to mean marriage between caucasians, asians and blacks. However, most people have strong historic, national and linguistic identities as well, which may cause more interpersonal differences than just ethnological definitions of race. For instance, most caucasians would not view a union between Korean and Japanese nationals as a “mixed marriage”; however, many Koreans and Japanese would heartily disagree.
According to USA Today, in America 6% of marriages are interracial; in 1970, it was less than 1%. A Gallup Poll on interracial dating in June 2005 reported that 95% of 18- to 29-year-olds approve of blacks and whites dating. About 60% of that age group said they have dated someone of a different race.
This level of tolerance did not always exist. Anti-miscegenation laws used to be very common in America. They were first passed in the 1600s to prevent freed black slaves from marrying whites.
More such laws were passed in the 1700s and 1800s as a response to an influx of Chinese and Filipino laborers, almost exclusively male. In this case, anti-miscegenation laws were part of a larger anti-asian movement that eventually led to the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 and other restrictive regulations. These laws actually excacerbated ethnic tensions because asian men were no longer allowed to bring their wives to America. Those who wanted to marry had no other choice but to find a non-asian partner.
After World War II, racial barriers began to lessen somewhat as U.S. servicemen who had fought and were stationed overseas in Asian countries returned with asian “war brides” of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, and Vietnamese origin.
It was only in 1967, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that miscegenation laws were unconstitutional (Loving v. Virginia). At that time, 38 states still had formal laws on their books to forbid the marriage of whites and non-whites. In this era, these laws still had widespread public support: just two years earlier, a 1965 Galllup poll found that 72 per cent of Southern whites and 42 per cent of Northern whites still wanted to ban interracial marriage.
Especially in the Southern states, there was widespread public fear specifically over predatory black men lusting after white women, and white women being unable to resist their charms. Black men who merely looked at white women were in danger of being lynched. In one famous case, a 14 year-old black boy named Emmett Till, who whistled at a white woman, was murdered by Mississippi Klansmen in 1955. There was no similar level of high-pitched racist hysteria about black women or asians.
Studies consistently show that asians have the highest rates of intermarriage, and that Japanese are the most likely to have a white spouse. Those who are most likely to marry within their own ethnic group are Vietnamese men and women, Korean husbands and Asian Indian wives. Most asians who marry a non-asian have a white spouse; intermarriage with blacks and latinos is less common. However, even among asians, most people still marry someone of their own racial group. 22 percent of Asian-American women have a non-asian husband. A mere nine percent of asian husbands have non-asian wives
The 2000 Census showed a gender disparity in the composition of interracial couples. The Census Bureau confirmed many black women’s complaints that white women tend to marry black men more often than white men marry black women. Currently, six percent of black husbands are in an interracial marriage, compared to only two percent of black wives. Fourteen percent of black men who are cohabiting without marriage have a white woman living with them, while only three percent of cohabiting black women live with a white man.
African-American men had white wives 2.65 times more often than black women had white husbands. In other words, in 73 percent of black-white marriages, the husband was black. This trend is even more pronounced among black-white couples who cohabit without being married; in this case, five times as many black men live with white women as white men live with black women.
18 percent of Asian wives have white husbands, while merely seven percent of asian husbands have white wives. The sex ratios of asian/white couples is the mirror image of black/white marriages. Asian women had white husbands 3.08 times more often than asian men had white wives. In other words, slightly more than 75 percent of white-asian couples featured a white husband and asian wife. However, unlike the situation with black/white couples, the gender imbalance is slightly less with cohabiting couples; only 2.09 times as many white men cohabited with asian women as asian men cohabited with white women.
Black-asian marriages, such as the one that produced golf legend Tiger Woods, are still rare, but here the gender imbalance is even more pronounced than interracial pairings involving whites. 86 percent of black-asian couples consisted of a black husband and an Asian wife. This means that there were 6.15 times more couples where the husband was black and the wife was asian than where the husband was asian and the wife black.
Non-Hispanic whites marry other whites 96.5 percent of the time, with little difference between men and women in the rates of intermarriage.
Slightly less than 18 percent of Hispanic wives are wed to non-Hispanics husbands, and a little over 15 percent of Hispanic husbands have non-Hispanic wives.
This gender discrepancy has grown larger over time; in 1960, white husbands were found in 50% of black/white marriages, and in 62% of asian/white marriages. The social result of this imbalance is a lack of marital opportunities for black women and asian men.
It is tempting to blame media-driven social stereotypes for the large gender discrepancy in black and asian intermarriage. Black men are prominent in sports have frequently been depicted in films as icons of virility. Americans engage in hero-worship of sports figures, and despite the average low income of lack males, elite black athletes are rich and famous.
Black women are rarely cast in highly sexualized film roles. However, black women are prominent in sports, and are often on stage as glamorous singers and dancers. In addition, black men are have high incarceration rates, earn lower incomes and are less likely to get post-secondary education than black women. For practical reasons, one would expect black women to be viewed on average as more desirable mates than black men.
However, according to a 2005 study done at Columbia University by Aaron Gullickson, black with college degrees are 35% more likely to enter into interracial marriages than blacks with less education, and lower-class blacks showed “strong isolation from the interracial marriage market”. Whites who marry blacks engage in cherry-picking, removing only the most successful individuals from a disadvantaged minority community sorely in need of successful role models. The Columbia study showed no correlation between educational level and interracial marriage for white spouses of blacks.
The image of asians may be more clear-cut and consistent; Asian women are presented as quiet, delicate and exotic. Asian men, with the exception of martial-arts films, are portrayed as “nerdy”, unathletic intellectuals. In fact, asians (both men and women) are slightly smaller than the national average size. Asians have been called a “model minority”, for they tend to be well-educated, hard-working and law-abiding. However, judging from the low rate of intermarriage for asian men, it seems that these old-fashioned personal virtues are less appealing to women than a hypermasculine, macho image.
In the search for a mate, people say they are high-minded and look for beauty within, and that their mates’ personalities are the most important factor in determining the outcome of a relationship. Yet it is abundantly clear that people are quite superficial and still to adhere to age-old sex stereotypes : women find muscular, aggressive males attractive, while males idealize the image of non-threatening, demure, petite women. In the public’s mind, if not in reality, black men and asian women fit these social roles, and are therefor most fashionable as dates and spouses.
2005 Census data was derived from counts of all 54,493,232 married couples in America as of April 1, 2000. Due to the large population surveyed, these statistics are extremely reliable. Census enumeration is made once every 10 years. The Census Bureau also releases annual Current Population Survey reports on “Families and Living Arrangements,” but these are based on sample sizes too small to be entirely trustworthy.