In 1986, only about a third of Americans viewed interracial marriage as acceptable. Now, more than a third of the population says that an immediate family member or close relative is married to someone of a different race, researchers found.
The more positive attitude toward intermarriage represents a sharp break from the recent past and parallels behavioral change: about 15 percent of new marriages across the country in 2010 were between spouses of different races or ethnicities, more than double the share in 1980. The researchers presented the acceptance of interracial marriage as “the fading of a taboo.”
“If you think about the last half-century, interracial marriage has evolved from being illegal in many states, to merely a taboo, to merely unusual, and with each passing year, it becomes less unusual,” said Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center.
Viewed in aggregate, interracially married newlyweds seem similar to all newlyweds. But when the pairings are broken down by sex and race, distinct patterns emerge.
White-Asian couples have the highest earning power, surpassing white-white couples and Asian-Asian couples in median income. And among Hispanics and blacks, those who marry outside their race are more likely to have college degrees. There are gender disparities as well: black men marry outside the race at a far higher rate than black women. But the opposite is true of Asians: women marry outside the race at a higher rate than men.
Regionally, intermarried couples are more likely to live in the West, a result of the concentration of immigrant minority groups there.