February 16, 2012

The Rise of Intermarriage

Rates, Characteristics Vary by Race and Gender

Executive Summary

This report analyzes the demographic and economic characteristics of newlyweds who marry spouses of a different race or ethnicity, and compares the traits of those who “marry out” with those who “marry in.” The newlywed pairs are grouped by the race and ethnicity of the husband and wife, and are compared in terms of earnings, education, age of spouse, region of residence and other characteristics. This report is primarily based on the Pew Research Center’s analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) in 2008-2010 and on findings from three of the Center’s own nationwide telephone surveys that explore public attitudes toward intermarriage. For more information about data sources and methodology, see Appendix 1.

Key findings:

Notes and Terminology

In this report, the terms “intermarriage” and “marrying out” refer to marriages between a Hispanic and a non-Hispanic (interethnic) or marriages between non-Hispanic spouses who come from the following different racial groups (interracial): white, black, Asian, American Indian, mixed race or some other race. “Intra-marriage” and “marrying in” refer to marriages between spouses of the same race or ethnicity.

“Newly married” or “newlyweds” refer to couples who got married in the past 12 months prior to the survey date (American Community Survey). Newlywed couples in 2008-2010 combines three years’ data for newlyweds. Even though labeled as “newlyweds,” 42% of newly married couples in 2008-2010 have been married before (either husband or wife or both). Newlyweds are a subset of the “currently married” population, which includes individuals whose marital status is “married, spouse present.”

When comparing characteristics of detailed groups of newlyweds by race/ethnicity as well as gender patterns, only intermarried couples involving a white spouse are analyzed, and they represent about 68% of all intermarried newlywed couples between 2008 and 2010. For illustration purposes, “/” (not specifying gender) and “-” (specifying gender) are used to indicate different types of couples. For example, “White/Asian” indicates intermarried couples between whites and Asians. “White-Asian” means that the husband is white and the wife is Asian, in that order.

The term “Asian” includes native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. “American Indian” includes Alaska Natives. The terms “black” and “African American” are used interchangeably in this report. All references in this report to whites, blacks, and Asians refer to the non-Hispanic portions of those groups. Hispanics are of any race. For more details, see Appendix 1.

About the Report

This report was researched and written by Wendy Wang, research associate at the Social & Demographic Trends project of the Pew Research Center. Jeffrey S. Passel, senior demographer at the Pew Research Center, participated in the initial planning of the project and prepared the couple-level ACS datasets for the analysis. Paul Taylor, director of the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project, provided the editorial guidance and also edited the report. Kim Parker, associate director of the Social & Demographic Trends project, provided valuable comments and suggestions. Research Assistants Eileen Patten and Seth Motel did the number checking, and Marcia Kramer copy-edited the report.

Cite this publication: Wendy Wang. “The Rise of Intermarriage.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (February 16, 2012) http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/02/16/the-rise-of-intermarriage/, accessed on July 22, 2014.