A record 14.6% of all new marriages in the US in 2008 were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another, according to new data from the Pew Research Center.
White-Hispanic is Most Common Interracial Coupling
The 14.6% figure is an estimated six times the intermarriage rate among newlyweds in 1960 and more than double the rate in 1980. White-Hispanic couples accounted for about four-in-ten (41%) of such new marriages; white-Asian couples made up 15%; and white-black couples made up 11%.
The remaining third consisted of marriages in which each spouse was a member of a different minority group or in which at least one spouse self-identified as being American Indian or of mixed or multiple races.
In 2008, a record 8% of currently married adults in the US had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity. In 1980, this figure was 3.2%.
Highest Percentage of Asians Marry Outside Race
Of the 3.8 million adults who married in 2008, 9% of whites, 16% of blacks, 26% of Hispanics and 31% of Asians married someone whose race or ethnicity was different from their own.
For whites, these shares are more than double what they had been in 1980, and for blacks they are nearly triple. For Hispanics and Asians, by contrast, these rates are little changed from 1980. High levels of Hispanic and Asian immigration over the past several decades helped drive both seemingly contradictory trends.
For whites and blacks, the new immigrants and (increasingly) their now grown U.S.-born children have enlarged the pool of potential partners for marrying outside one’s own racial or ethnic group. But for Hispanics and Asians, the ongoing immigration wave has greatly enlarged the pool of potential partners for in-group marrying.
Significant Gender Differences among Black, Asian Interracial Marriages
Among blacks and Asians, there are stark differences by gender in the tendency to marry outside their own racial group. Some 22% of all black male newlyweds in 2008 married outside their race, compared with just 9% of black female newlyweds.
Among Asians, the gender pattern runs the opposite way. Some 40% of Asian female newlyweds in 2008 married outside their race, compared with just 20% of Asian male newlyweds.
Among whites and Hispanics, by contrast, there are no gender differences in intermarriage rates. About 9% of both male and female white newlyweds in 2008 married a nonwhite spouse, and about a quarter of both male and female Hispanic newlyweds in 2008 married someone who is not Hispanic.
Western US Has Most Interracial Marriages
About one in five (21%) of all newlyweds in Western states married someone of a different race or ethnicity in 2008, compared with 13% in the South and Northeast and 11% in the Midwest. All nine states with out-marriage rates of 20% or more in 2008 are situated west of the Mississippi River: Hawaii (43%); Nevada (28%); Oregon (24%); Oklahoma (23%); California (22%); New Mexico (22%); Colorado (21%); Arizona (21%); and Washington (20%).
Regional out-marriage patterns vary in other ways. For example, blacks who live in the West are three times as likely to out-marry as are blacks who live in the South, and twice as likely as blacks in the Northeast or Midwest.
Among Hispanics, by contrast, the highest rate of out-marriage is in the Midwest (41%) reflecting a general tendency for out-marriage rates to be higher among smaller groups. As for Asians, relatively few live in the South, but those who do are more likely to out-marry (37%) than are those who live in other regions.
The nation’s most populous state, California, presents the following anomaly: In 2008, white (20%) and black (36%) newlyweds were more likely to out-marry than were Hispanics (18%).
In all other states where data are available for these groups, the reverse was true; Hispanic newlyweds out-married at higher rates than did whites or blacks.
- 13% of all currently married adults ages 25 or younger have married out, compared to 3% of all currently married adults ages 75 or older.
- Of all newlyweds in 2008, 15.5% of those who attended college married outside their race or ethnicity, compared with 13.5% of those who completed high school and 11.0% of those who did not complete high school.
- Among newlyweds in 2008, the relationship of intermarriage and age weakens. The intermarriage rate is around 15 % for newlyweds younger than age 50 (the vast majority of all newly weds). Rates decline among newlyweds older than age 50.
Minority Growth Represents Marketing Opportunity
Increasing interracial marriage reflects the increasing percentage of the US demographic profile represented by ethnic minorities, which itself presents an opportunity to marketers, according to The Nielsen Company.
By 2050, more than half of the US population will be non-white (African-American, Asian, Hispanic). In that same time frame, the economic opportunity for brands in the multicultural CPG space is projected to exceed $500 billion.