How Higher Education Impacts the Likelihood of Interracial Marriage

Mildred and Richard Loving

A half century ago in 1967, U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia that states could not prohibit interracial marriage. At that time, interracial marriage was illegal in 16 southern states.

Over the past 50 years, interracial marriages have become far more common in the United States. A new report from the Pew Research Center examines interracial marriage in the United States today. The data shows that in 1967 when the Loving case was decided, only 3 percent of all newlywed couples were interracial. Today, the figure is 17 percent.

Among major ethnic groups, Asian women are the most likely to be involved in an interracial marriage. For Whites, 12 percent of men and 10 percent of women marry a spouse of a different race. But for African Americans there is a large gender gap. Some 24 percent of Black men marry someone who is not Black, whereas only 12 percent of African American women marry outside their race.

For African Americans, the likelihood of interracial marriage increases as they move up the educational ladder. Some 15 percent of African Americans who graduated from high school but had no college experience were involved in an interracial marriage. The figure rises to 17 percent for those with some college experience but no degree.

Some 21 percent of Black newlyweds with a college degree marry someone from another racial or ethnic group. The gender gap in interracial marriage rates for African Americans is more pronounced at higher education levels. Some 30 percent of Black men with a college degree marry outside their race compared to only 13 percent of Black women with a college degree.


Comments (11)

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  1. Dan says:

    Though I see inter-racial relationships as a good thing, it is evidence of the progress made. However, divorce rates are ever increasing and Black male/ white female marriages have a shorter lifespan than Black female/ white marriages.

  2. David B. says:

    Why do you view the acceptance of blacks as romantic partners by non-blacks as evidence of progress? I have 2 black male friends who have children by white women and neither relationship has worked out. One of them has become the single father of an autistic child whose mother refuses to be a mother (hence he is a single parent) and is divorced from her. The other friend (well, former friend because I criticized his lack of commitment to his daughter) who has a “baby momma” situation with a white woman that he never married. Based on their experiences, I would say interracial relationships are bad for blacks, at least black men who marry non-black women. Why do you think black women-white men marriages have longer lifespans?

    • Nick says:

      Hi David,

      I am a Black Man in an interracial marriage myself and it is very successful. We will celebrate 10 years this year. By the way this is both are first marriage, no past divorces. I know you were responding to Dan, but I had to respond to your comment and I quote “Based on their experiences, I would say interracial relationships are bad for blacks, at least black men who marry non-black women.” How can you site two experiences and say that interracial relationships are bad for blacks from such an extremely small sample? I respect your experience and opinion, but I wholeheartedly disagree with such a statement.

      • David B. says:

        Well Nick, I should have written that I’ve read that black male- white female marriages have the least success rates as well. I guess that between the men I’ve known and what I’ve read, I’ve concluded that black men-white women relationships don’t usually work out. But then again, considering the low marriage rates and high divorce rates amongst blacks as compared to any other group of people in the U.S., by my logic, blacks shouldn’t get married at all.

      • Dan says:

        Because SOME black men who marry interracially are doing it with the wrong intentions and I may guess that it is to spite black women. From statistics and from my personal observation, black women/white male unions last longer and I feel there is some genuine love and a working team between the two. By the black male/white female marriages have the highest divorce rates among all interracial marriages.

        I am not against interracial marriages, but as a black man, I prefer to keep my blood line black and black women have been very loyal to the black man. But, love is love.

        • David B. says:

          Dan-
          I find it interesting that you prefer to keep your blood line black when it seems that most blacks want nothing to do with the traditionally African traits that they possess (dark skin, kinky hair, broad noses, etc…) It seems that the African American dream is to not only to assimilate as much as possible into white America but to actually produce lighter-skinned black babies that more resemble white babies. This self-hatred is worse in Africa and outside of the U.S. amongst blacks, but even amongst U.S. blacks it is very strong. Have black women been loyal to black men because they’ve chosen to be so, or haven’t had white suitors? When black women advance economically, they opt out the race too. The only blacks who seem to choose black mates are the same blacks who can’t move out of black neighborhoods. With the exception of enlightened blacks of course, who aren’t so full of self-hatred that are the minority of blacks.

          • Dan says:

            David B.

            You’re absolutely right. There is a self-hatred among Blacks. Many blacks force biracial white/black to identify as black when they are not. I do not consider them “light skin blacks” they are biracial. I do believe if Black women had an option, they would date out. Hollywood and the media forces white aesthetics in our faces and i almost feel for it. It took a deep consciousness to see the beauty in my race and it took attending a couple of black events likes “Afropunk” to see how beautiful the black race is.

  3. Paula says:

    Interesting study,however, the correlation is not explained. What aspect of “higher education” impacts the outcomes? are they meeting on campuses? does education change attitudes and preconceptions ? how does Higher Ed impact this increas?

    • Dan says:

      Paula-
      My theory maybe is those black men with a J.D, MD, or MBA degree, who attended a PWI and after (or before) they entered into the job market, have (or had) social circles that consists of mostly non-blacks. It’s like moving-up the corporate ladder; the upper you go, the least likely you’ll encounter people who look like you.

      Just my take.

      • Kim says:

        It’s not simply exposure, I’m afraid: Black female students far outnumber Black male students at the nation’s highest-ranked universities. (Not that rankings mean anything.)

        The huge gender gap speaks to larger societal forces, both external and, yes, internalized. If we are going to discuss this issue with seriousness we must use our sociological imaginations. We cannot discount the historical valuation of white female beauty (white women as the ultimate prize, the excuse for the rise of the KKK, etc) and corresponding de-valuation of black female beauty. We cannot ignore that black men have — speaking generally and NOT specifically and only to some, unmeasurable extent — internalized these societal ideals.

        To use a sociological imagination to discuss the issue says nothing about any individual couple and their love for one another.

        But to quote Faulkner: the past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.

        • David B. says:

          Kim-
          I would tend to agree with you that generally speaking black men prefer more European-looking women. Just look at the wives and girlfriends of the black men who presumably have their pick of the litter in terms of women: athletes and entertainers.

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