Interracial marriage

Interracial marriage

Interracial marriage occurs when two people of differing racial groups marry, often creating multiracial children. This is a form of exogamy (marrying outside of one's social group) and can be seen in the broader context of miscegenation (mixing of different racial groups in marriage, cohabitation, or sexual relations).

Legality of interracial marriage

In the Western world certain jurisdictions have had regulations banning or restricting interracial marriage in the past, including Germany during the Nazi period, South Africa under apartheid, and many states in the United States prior to the Supreme Court's 1967 ruling in Loving v. Virginia. In both Nazi Germany and certain American states, such laws have been linked to eugenics programs.

In many Arabic nations, laws and customs continue to exist which revoke the civil rights of women who marry men not native to the woman's country of birth, or to men who are non-Muslim in particular. Women who follow through on this choice run a high risk of being subjected to honor killings by male family members. Saudi-Arabia, Syria, Morocco, Jordan, Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority retain laws in which violence against women on the grounds of "adultery" is condoned or mitigated by the legal systems. In 2008, Pakistani senators defended the practice of burying young women alive who were judged guilty by tribal elders of having engaged in a relationship with men not of their tribe.

According to the report of the Special Rapporteur submitted to the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (2002) concerning cultural practices in the family that reflect violence against women (E/CN.4/2002/83), similar such legal situations where the law is interpreted to allow men to kill female relatives in a premeditated effort as well as for crimes of passions, in flagrante delicto in the act of committing adultery, include: Argentina, Equador, Iran, Israel, Peru and Venezuala.

United States

In Social Trends in America and Strategic Approaches to the Negro Problem (1948), Gunnar Myrdal ranked the social areas where restrictions were imposed by Southern Caucasian Americans on the freedom of African-Americans through racial segregation from the least to the most important: jobs, courts and police, politics, basic public facilities, "social equality" including dancing, handshaking, and most important, marriage. This ranking scheme seems to explain the way in which the barriers against desegregation fell. Of less importance was the segregation in basic public facilities, which was abolished with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The most tenacious form of legal segregation, the banning of interracial marriage, was not fully lifted until the last anti-miscegenation laws were struck down in 1967 by the Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia.


The number of interracial marriages in the United States has been on the rise: from 310,000 in 1970, to 651,000 in 1980, and 1,161,000 in 1992, according to the US Census of 1993. Interracial marriages represented 0.7% of all marriages in 1970, rising to 1.3% in 1980 and 2.2% in 1992. With the introduction of the mixed-race category, the 2000 census revealed interracial marriage to be somewhat more widespread, with 2,669,558 interracial marriages recorded, or 4.9% of all marriages.. It should be noted that these statistics do not take into account the mixing of ancestries within the same race. For example a marriage involving Dravidian and Japanese ancestries would not be classified as interracial due to both being classified as the same race by the US Census. The US Census Bureau considers Hispanic to be an ethnicity, not a race. Consequently, Hispanic marriage with non-Hispanics is not interracial, if both partners are of the same race (say, between a White Hispanic and a non-Hispanic White partner).

Married Couples in the United States in 2006 .
White Wife Black Wife Asian Wife Other Wife
White Husband 50,224,000 117,000 530,000 489,000
Black Husband 286,000 3,965,000 34,000 45,000
Asian Husband 174,000 6,000 2,493,000 13,000
Other Husband 535,000 23,000 41,000 558,000

Based on these statistics:

  • Caucasian Americans are the least likely to marry interracially, although in absolute terms Caucasian Americans are involved in interracial marriages more than any other racial group. 1.9% of married Caucasian American women and 2.2% of married Caucasian American men have a non-Caucasian American spouse. 1.0% of married Caucasian American men are married to an Asian American woman, and 1.0% of married Caucasian American women are married to a man classified as "other".
  • 3.7% of married African American women and 8.4% of married African American men have a non-African American spouse. 6.6% of married African American men, and 2.8% of married African American women, have a Caucasian American spouse. Only 0.1% of married African American women are married to an Asian American man, representing the least represented marital combination.
  • There is a notable disparity in the rates of exogamy by Asian American males and females. Only 25% of Asian American/Caucasian American marriages involve an Asian American male and Caucasian American female, and only 15% Asian American/African American marriages involve an Asian American male and a African American female. 19.5% of married Asian American women and 7.2% of married Asian American men have a non-Asian American spouse.

Interracial marriage by pairing

Asian and Caucasian

Marriages between Caucasian Americans and Asian Americans in the United States are becoming increasingly common for both genders (Lange, 2005), however marriages between Caucasian men and Asian women have continued to outnumber the reverse coupling by four to one. In 1990, about 69 percent of married Asian American women aged between 18 and 30 were married to Asian American men, while 25 percent had Caucasian husbands. By 2006, 41 percent of Asian American-born women were registered as having Caucasian husbands, while 50 percent were married to Asian American men . C.N. Le estimated that the gender gap is smaller among the American-born or 1.5 generation Asian Americans. Asian Americans of both genders who are U.S.-raised are much more likely to be married to Caucasians than their non-U.S.-raised counterparts. Not all Asian ethnicities have similar intermarriage patterns; for instance, Indian Americans were overwhelmingly endogamous, with only a small amount of outmarriage to other ethnic groups. The interracial marriage disparity for Indian Americans was low, with outmarriage to Caucasian Americans slightly higher for Indian American males, whereas all other major Asian groups (including American-bred Indian Americans) had more outmarriage for women. A 2001 U.S. national survey conducted by Yankelovich Partners in collaboration with the Anti-Defamation League indicated that 24% of the respondents disapprove of marriage with an Asian American.

African and Caucasian

Although mixed-race partnering has increased, the United States still shows disparities between African American male and African American female endogamy statistics. The 1990 census reports that 17.6% of African American marriages occur with Caucasian Americans. Yet, African American men are 2.6 times more likely to be married to Caucasian American women than African American women to Caucasian American men. In the 2000 census, 239,477 African American male to Caucasian American female and 95,831 Caucasian American male to African American female marriages were recorded, again showing the 2.5-1 ratio. In 2007, 4.6% of married African Americans were married to a Caucasian American partner, and 0.4% of married Caucasian Americans were married to an African American.

Native American and Asian

Filipino Americans have frequently married Native American and Alaskan Native people. In the 17th century, when Filipinos were under Spanish rule, the Spanish colonists ensured a Filipino trade between the Philippines and the Americas. When the Mexicans revolted against the Spanish, the Filipinos first escaped into Mexico, then traveled to Louisiana, where the exclusively male Filipinos married Native American women. In the 1920s, Filipino American communities of workers also grew in Alaska, and Filipino American men married Alaskan Native women.. On the west coast, Filipino Americans married Native American women in Bainbridge Island, Washington..

"[I]n the 1920s Japanese men married Eskimo women throughout western Alaska." During the 1930s, there was relatively frequent intermarriage between Japanese Americans and Cherokee Indians in California, since these ethnic groups were introduced or hired as farm laborers and they worked together.

Asian and African

With African Americans and Asian Americans, the ratios are even further imbalanced, with 59.8% more Asian female/African male marriages than Asian male/African female marriages. However, C.N. Le estimated that Asian Americans of the 1.5 generation and of the five largest Asian American ethnic groups had African American male/Asian American female marriages 27.2% more than Asian American male/African American female relationships. Even though the disparity between African American and Asian American interracial marriages by gender is high according to the 2000 US Census, the total numbers of Asian American/African American interracial marriages are low, numbering only 0.22% percent for Asian American male marriages and 1.30% percent of Asian female marriages, partially contributed by the recent flux of Asian immigrants.

Historically, Chinese American men married African American women in high proportions to their total marriage numbers due to few Chinese American women being in the United States. After the Emancipation Proclamation, many Chinese Americans immigrated to the Southern states, particularly Arkansas, to work on plantations. The tenth US Census of Louisiana counted 57% of interracial marriages between these Chinese Americans to be with African Americans and 43% to be with Caucasian American women. After the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese American men had fewer potential ethnically Chinese wives, so they increasingly married African American women on the West Coast. In Jamaica and other Caribbean nations as well many Chinese males over past generations took up African wives, gradually assimilating or absorbing many Chinese descendants into the African Caribbean community or the overall mixed-race community.

Native American and Caucasian

The interracial disparity between genders among Native Americans is low. According to the 1990 US Census (which only counts indigenous people with US-government-recognized tribal affiliation), Native American women intermarried Caucasian Americans 2% more than Native American men married Caucasian American women.. Historically in Latin America, and to a lesser degree in the United States, Native Americans have married out at a high rate. Many countries in Latin America have large Mestizo populations; in many cases, mestizos are the largest ethnic group in their respective countries.

Native American and African

Interracial unions between Amerindians in Latin America is somewhat commonplace and there is a relatively large population of mixed African-Amerindian people in Latin America commonly called "Zambos" or "Cafusos". In the United States and Canada, interracial unions between American Indians and African-Americans has also been high throughout the 18th through early 20th century resulting in most African-Americans being a fraction American Indian.

See: Black Indians

Marriage squeeze

A term has arisen to describe the social phenomenon of the so-called "marriage squeeze" for African American females. The "marriage squeeze" refers to the fact that the most "eligible" and "desirable" African American men are marrying non-African American women at a higher rate, leaving African American women who wish to marry African American men with fewer partnering options. According to Newsweek, 43% of African American women between the ages of 30 and 34 have never been married. Several explanations of this phenomenon have been advanced by sociologists. It may be in part due to the still lingering effects of social ostracism which Caucasian American men who married African American women were heavily subjected in the past. It may also be the result of a desire among African American women to marry African American men due to concepts such as racial loyalty. There also appears a lingering perception that negative social stereotypes cause black women to be viewed as sexual objects by non-African American men. Lastly, there is a desire among educated women of all races to marry partners within or above their social and economic class; when African American women restrict their marriage prospects to African American men, African American women risk either marrying below their socioeconomic class or not marrying at all as African American women consistently achieve better completion rates in higher education than African American men do.. Also, rates of incarceration for marriage-age African American males are far higher than rates for females, further contributing to the male/female gap. As of 2002, 10.4% of all African American males between the ages of 25 and 29 were sentenced and in prison. The African-American male-female disparity is highest between the ages of 25 – 29, when for every two African-American men, there are nearly three African-American women. Young African American males also suffer a high rate of deaths by homicide.

According to AsianWeek, a possible explanation of the relatively low number of African-American/Asian-American interracial couplings could be due to racism from older first generation family members at the idea of marrying African-American. This negative view of African-Americans possibly stems from stereotypes within the Asian community which portray African-Americans as violent and lazy, or the perception that marrying a black partner constitutes "marrying down" because black Americans are on average less affluent than white Americans.

Education and interracial marriage

Using PUMS data from both the 1980 and 1990 US Census to determine trends within interracial marriage among Caucasian Americans, African Americans, and Asian Americans, it may be seen that endogamy (marrying within race) was more prevalent for African American men at lower education levels.

In 1980, the numbers were as follows: African American males without a high-school diploma participated in endogamy at 96.5%; for those who received a high-school diploma, 95.6%; for those with a college degree and above, the percentage of endogamy dropped to 94.0%. However, the rates for African American women changed very little with different educational levels. For the African American woman who had not received a high school diploma the rate was 98.7%, high school diploma was 98.6%, with some college it was 98.2%, and college degree or higher, 98.5%. During this time there was a significant increase in marriages between Caucasians and African Americans, maintaining that African Americans are most likely to marry Caucasians over other groups.

The 1990 results show that rates of endogamy dropped for both males and females, albeit more for the African American male. In 1990, an African American male with a college degree and more was participating in endogamy at 90.4%; for an African American female with the same educational level, 96.4%. The results for the propensity of individuals at higher educational attainment levels to participate less in endogamy over the 10-year period were similar across races, including Caucasians, Hispanics, and Asian Americans.

Immigrants and interracial marriage

Racial endogamy is much stronger for immigrants as compared to natives. Immigrants of African descent are 4.9 times more likely than African Americans to marry within their race. Additionally, immigrants of African descent have the highest rates of endogamy of immigrants. African immigrants are much more likely to marry other same-race immigrants and African Americans, than to out-marry racially. Native-born Caucasian Americans are also 1.6 times more likely to marry a native-born African American than an immigrant of African descent. Female immigrants of African descent are more likely to marry native-born Caucasians than are their male counterparts.

Interracial marriage versus cohabitation

In the United States, rates of interracial cohabitation are significantly higher than those of marriage. Although only 7 percent of married African American men have Caucasian American wives, 13 percent of cohabitating African American men have Caucasian American partners. 25 percent of married Asian American women have Caucasian spouses, but 45 percent of cohabitating Asian American women are with Caucasian American men—higher than the percentage cohabitating with Asian men (44 percent). These numbers suggest that the prevalence of intimate interracial contact is greatly underestimated when one focuses only on marriage data.


Indian men have married many African women in Africa. Indians have long been traders in East Africa. The British Empire brought workers into East Africa to build the Uganda Railway. Indians eventually populated South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Zaire in small numbers. These interracial unions were mostly unilateral marriages between Indian men and East African women.


In 2005 there were slightly more marriages by Australian resident women (13,079) to foreign-born partners than by Australian resident men (12,714). Australian-born male and female residents who married that year were most likely to have married an Australian-born partner (84.1% of marriages involving Australian men; 83.7% of marriages involving Australian females). Male Australian residents who were born in China and were married in 2005 were least likely to have married an Australian-born resident (only 3.1% of marriages involving a Chinese-born groom were to an Australian-born bride). Female Australian residents who were born in Vietnam and were married in 2005 were least likely to have married an Australian-born resident (only 15.7% of marriages involving a Vietnamese-born bride were to an Australian-born groom). Only 8.8% of males, and 11% of females, who were American-born Australian residents and married in 2005, married another person from the United States.

In terms of variance between brides and grooms from particular countries in marrying native Australians, 36.7% of brides but only 7.9% of grooms born in countries defined as 'North Asia' (Japan and Korea) who married in 2005 did so to an Australian-born partner. Conversely, 64.1% of grooms but only 43.8% of brides born in Lebanon who married in 2005 did so to an Australian-born partner..


In 2003 there were 36,039 international marriages between Japanese and non-Japanese in Japan - about one out of twenty marriages. About 80% of these interracial marriages involved a Japanese male marrying a foreign female (predominantly Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Thai and Brazilian), and 20% involve marriage to a foreign husband (predominantly Korean, American, Chinese, British and Brazilian).

South Korea

International marriages now make up 13 percent of all marriages in Korea. Most of these marriages are unions between a Korean male and a foreign female (mostly from Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and China) .

United Kingdom

As of 2001, 2% of all UK marriages are interethnic. Despite having a much lower non-white population (9%), mixed marriages are as common as in the United States. New Studies are being conducted by London South Bank University called Parenting 'Mixed' Children: Negotiating Difference and Belonging.

Interracial marriage gender disparities for certain groups

According to the UK 2001 census , British African males were around 50% more likely than black females to marry outside their race. British Chinese women (30%) were twice as likely as their male counterparts (15%) to marry someone from a different ethnic group. Among British Asians, referring mainly to South Asians, males were twice as likely to have an inter-ethnic marriage as were their female counterparts.

Case of Seretse Khama

In 1948, an international incident was created when the British government took exception to the marriage of Seretse Khama, kgosi (king) of the Bamangwato people of what was then the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland, to an English woman, Ruth Williams, whom he had met while studying law in London. The interracial marriage sparked a furore among both the tribal elders of the Bamangwato and the apartheid government of South Africa, who could not afford to have an interracial couple ruling just across their northern border, and who therefore immediately exerted pressure to have Khama removed from his chieftainship. Britain’s Labour government, then heavily in debt from World War II, could not afford to lose cheap South African gold and uranium supplies. There was also a fear that South Africa might take more direct action against Bechuanaland, through economic sanctions or a military incursion. The British government therefore launched a parliamentary enquiry into Khama’s fitness for the chieftainship. Though the investigation reported that he was in fact eminently fit for the rule of Bechuanaland, "but for his unfortunate marriage", the government ordered the report suppressed (it would remain so for thirty years), and exiled Khama and his wife from Bechuanaland in 1951. It took many years of exile before the couple was allowed to live in Africa, and several more years before Khama became president of what is now Botswana. Their son Ian Khama is presently the president of Botswana.


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