I. Racial Preferences in the Dating and Marriage Market
Americans' acceptance of interracial intimacy has increased dramatically in just one generation. In 1987, less than 50% of Americans approved of African-Americans and Whites dating. By 2013, 87% of all Americans, and 96% of 18-29 year olds, approved of marriages (not just dating) between African-Americans and Whites. Yet, despite our approval of interracial *106 relationships, most Americans marry individuals of their same race. One reason might be opportunity. We tend to date people we meet at school, work, or in our neighborhood, but residential and educational segregation and the lower positions racial and ethnic minorities occupy in most workplaces limit opportunities for members of different groups to interact socially as equals.
Racial preferences are another reason why the majority of cohabitating and married couples are of the same race. Just because a person approves of interracial relationships does not mean that she herself is willing to marry across the color line. A wealth of data from surveys, online dating, and speed dating studies show that when seeking an intimate partner, many individuals prefer someone of their same race. Racial preferences might also explain why some groups have higher intermarriage rates than others. Individuals who are open to dating interracially often have preferences for members of certain races to the exclusion of others. These preferences reveal a racial hierarchy in which Whites, including multiracial individuals who are part White (but not part Black), are deemed most desirable, African-Americans significantly less so, and other racial or ethnic minorities (specifically Asian-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans) somewhere in the middle. This racial hierarchy is gendered with Asian-American men and African-American women least preferred in the interracial dating and marriage market.
About half of all Americans report that they have dated a person of a different race or ethnicity. Younger generations and racial and ethnic minorities are even more likely to have dated interracially. Yet, even among the younger generation we find racial differences in dating patterns. White college students are more likely to date Asian-Americans and Latinos than *107 to date African-Americans. African-American college students are also less likely than other racial or ethnic minorities to date interracially.
While the majority of individuals who date or cohabitate interracially ultimately do not marry a person of a different race, the rate of intermarriage has increased significantly since the Supreme Court declared in 1967 that laws prohibiting interracial marriage were unconstitutional. In 1960, just 2% of marriages in the United States were interracial. Fifty years later, in 2010, 15% of marriages celebrated that year were between spouses of different races or between Latinos and non-Latinos. Yet, race continues to influence our romantic choices. In a society where race did not play a role in intimate relationships, 44%, not just 15%, of recent marriages would be interracial.
Intermarriage patterns vary widely by race, color, and gender. The majority of American Indians (58%) marry out, primarily with Whites, as do *108 more than one-third of U.S.-born Asian-Americans and Latinos, and 17% of African-Americans. Multiracial individuals who are part White are significantly more likely than their mono-racial co-ethnics to have a White partner but here too marriage patterns vary by race. The majority of Asian/White and about half of Latino/White multiracial individuals have a White spouse or cohabitating partner. In contrast, the majority of African-American/White multiracial individuals partner with African-Americans.
Intermarriage patterns also vary by skin color. Lighter-skinned minorities are more likely than their darker-skinned counterparts to intermarry with Whites. For example, U.S.-born Latinos who identify as racially white on the U.S. Census are significantly more likely than their darker counter-parts to be married to non-Latino Whites. Skin tone plays a similar role in the intermarriage patterns of U.S.-born Asian-Americans. Dark-skinned minorities who intermarry with Whites are more likely than their lighter-skinned counterparts to be married to Whites who have attained less formal education than themselves--in other words, to marry “down” in terms of education.
The marriage patterns of some groups are not only influenced by race, but also by gender. U.S.-born Asian-American women are almost five times more likely to intermarry than African-American women. African-American men are more than twice as likely as African-American women *109 to marry out. The opposite is true for Asian-American men who are half as likely as their female counterparts to intermarry.
Gays and lesbians are more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to have an intimate partner of a different race. Yet, the same racial patterns observed in different-sex relationships are apparent in same-sex relationships. Asian-Americans and Latinos in same- or different-sex relationships are significantly more likely than African-Americans to have a partner of a different race or ethnicity.