Marriage Across Ethnic Lines Slowing, Report Says

I’m interested in this because my partner of 10 years is Hispanic, second-generation American, of Mexican origin — new research shows that Hispanics and Asians are starting to marry others within their ethnicity, not choosing a Caucasian.

Reports The Wall Street Journal:

The overall number of interethnic and interracial marriages continues to grow, as taboos against it have faded significantly. An estimated 8% of all couples in the U.S. belonged to distinct ethnic groups in 2008—with more than 10% in California and Texas—a sharp increase from the 3% overall rate in 1980.

But new research concludes that intermarriage rates between Hispanics and non-hispanic whites and between Asians and whites have declined or stagnated over the past two decades, due in part to a surge in immigration that has expanded the pool of people of marrying age in those groups. Scholars call the phenomenon a “retreat from intermarriage.”

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey for 1995-2008, which was released in March, sociologists Daniel Lichter and Julie Carmalt of Cornell University and Zhenchao Qian of Ohio State University identified trends in Hispanic-white marriage among 42,308 couples, divided almost equally between the 1990s and 2000 periods.

Among second-generation Hispanic women, who are the children of immigrants, the proportion who married outside their ethnicity—mainly to whites—fell to 16% in the 2000 period compared to 22% in the 1990s. The decrease in marriage to whites can be attributed mainly to a significant increase in the share of the second-generation Hispanic women who married Hispanics: 84% in the 2000 period compared with 78% in the 1990s.

“The massive influx of new immigrants from Latin America and Asia has not only fueled the opportunity to marry one’s co-ethnics, but also revitalized ancestral and cultural identity,” says Dr. Lichter.

It’s been interesting for us to negotiate our cultural differences — the irony being they stem more from my Canadian roots and beliefs and his American ones than any Anglo-Hispanic divide. On any number of occasions, he’s sighed: “This is not the time to be Canadian!” (i.e. diffident, risk-averse.)

I had spent much more time in Mexico, even living there briefly as a teenager, than he had. (The photo here is of our apartment building in Cuernavaca.) When we traveled there for three weeks in 2005, everyone assumed he was fluent in Spanish (he understands it but does not speak it) while it was I, the Canadian white girl, who did the translation. I was dying for caheta and churros and cacahuetes, the Mexican treats of my childhood that he had never tasted.

The whole notion of “assimilation” is interesting, as it assumes it’s a good thing. It can be, if it gets you the education or job or home or partner you want. But it can come with a price, the loss of your own culture. When I started dating my guy, I bumped into some pretty funny stereotypes from people who had not met him. The minute they heard a Hispanic name, a whole pile ‘o cliches came to mind.

“Does he salsa?” asked one. (The kind that comes in a jar, yes. On the dance floor, no.) “Does he wear a guayabera?” (Brooks Brothers, actually.)

We’re both driven career journos, both photographers, both world travelers who love French food. Our similarities outweigh our physical or ethnic differences.

The major cultural difference between us, perhaps, and one I value although it’s taken me ages to get used to it — he shows a lot of emotion. Expressed emotion. Verbally expressed emotion. WASPs don’t do feelings. Like money or physical pain, we may have them, but we don’t talk about it. And Canadians do tend to be more polite, forever terrified they’ll create a conflict.

Have you dated or married someone of another ethnic background? How is it?

7 thoughts on “Marriage Across Ethnic Lines Slowing, Report Says

  1. citifieddoug

    That’s ok, I’m getting too old and respectable to be used for revenge against parents anyway.

    In my opinion, differences in thinking between sexes is much greater than between cultures. For heterosexuals, at least, whether you date in-group or out-, you still have an attractive lunatic on your hands.

    One kind of funny thing, though- at least in their teens and 20s, it’s pretty common for South Asian women dating outside the ethnicity to keep their boyfriends a secret well into the relationship and accept arranged first dates with more acceptable prospective partners. This might be the case with other groups as well, but I experienced it with an Indian. That’s initially very ooky but with the right rules in place it can be less suspicious and even something to look forward to. (That last depends on having the right right rules.)

  2. Caitlin Kelly

    My family couldn’t have cared less about my guy’s Hispanic background as a negative — since we’ve all traveled to Mexico many times, have lived and worked there, and like the country a lot.

    Our family’s values are more focused on work and work ethic, not the color of someone’s skin or their last name. Toronto, where I grew up, is so multi-ethnic you can often be the visible minority on the bus or streetcar if you’re white. I think it’s much less of a big deal in some parts of the U.S. and some other countries.

  3. It’s odd that North Americans classify anyone south of the border as “Hispanic” as if that’s a race. My wife is from Brazil, and is considered properly Hispanic, but genetically she’s 100% Italian, like many European-descended people from that country. She didn’t consider herself other than White until people her informed her she wasn’t!

  4. Caitlin Kelly

    Very true. It’s also far too generic a word to encompass the many differences between people who speak Spanish but come from different countries and cultures.

    1. Our perception of “hispanic” makes even less sense when you consider the significant population of Asians in Latin America from the Japanese emigration programs in the 1900s. Hispanic is a geographical term, not an ethnicity term.

  5. “This is *not* the time to be Canadian” — I must use that sometime.

    I’ve dated a number of women whose ethnic background largely differed from mine, and I never really thought about it beyond the initial recognition that each one was obviously not entirely some Euro-mutt like me. My attraction was for the individual. Any differences struck me as behavioral and, thus, individualized. Like, acting Canadian.

  6. Caitlin Kelly

    I agree…A friend had actually suggested I date a Hispanic man (who might better appreciate a girl with curves than all the WASPy boys who like ’em stick thin) but I would never have gone out looking for one specifically. We met on-line and had journalism in common. I find him much more rah-rah patriotic American than Hispanic.

    I think you would find some particularities to certain nationalities, if not ethnicities. I was mistaken for an American (brash) in Canada and then too “Canadian” for NY. Go figure.

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