National Institute on Aging

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 (28)

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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.

    • Bud says:

      What’s crazy, though, is that black female/white male relationships are actually the longest lasting combo of all kinds of relationships. They even last significantly longer than white male/white female relationships.

      • Sandy says:

        This is my 2nd interracial marriage, we have been married 4 years ( been together 8yrs) , Robert became an instant family man/ stepfather of my 3 teenagers then. My 1st marriage lasted 10 years. I think the staying power of white male/black female relationships is the “us against the world” thing. we love each other and we won’t let other people’s opinions ruin our relationship. He’s got my back and I have his.

        • David says:

          Love is blind. Im white and married a white woman. Got divorsed she was very one sided on a lot of things. Re married a Philippino and been married over 24 yrs now. To me it was the US against the world. Very family oriented and she had a daughter. I’ve never said this is my stepdaughter. But i think the color bearier is dieing with the exception of liberal trying to creat racism.

      • CA says:

        That’s not true that was a myth someone debunked it was based off a survey of only 200 interracial couples and the methodology was extremely flawed

    • Joe No Schmoe says:

      People have been coerced to destroy their heritage. If you can’t get them out, you breed them out.

    • Ozell Israelite says:

      That was debunked a long time ago.

  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:

          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.

          • Ozell Israelite says:

            Majority of black people don’t “hate” themselves and don’t black women when they get economically suited still date and marry black men but you tried it though. Next time know what you’re talking about before injecting your nose into other race’s business.

          • Diane Emling says:

            So why do biracial people (Black and white) tend to self-identify as Black? Because out in the world, experientially, they are treated as Black. Why would a biracial person identify as white, when nothing (or very little) in their daily life experience recognizes it?
            On a related topic, I wonder why, when people address the disproportion of Black women to Black men, and Black women having more education marrying white men, no one mentions that thousands of Black men are in prison due to racism in the criminal justice system. Of course there are more Black women in the community! And Black men once released from prison would still not fit a “marriage of equals” for many Black women.

  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:

      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:

          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.

          • Joe No Schmoe says:

            It’s because they have been brainwashed to think black is bad and white is good. So instead of having black pride, they try to breed the black out of themselves.

          • Ozell Israelite says:

            Yah and their wives are dark skinned black women just like majority of black men . Most black athletes and entertainers have dark skinned black wives and black men don’t prefer “European features” so stop trolling kid.

  4. Robert says:

    With the exception of Asians, MEN in every racial group are more likely to marry outside their group than are women. (I wonder why it’s the reverse with Asian women. Any studies on that?). But among Blacks there seem to be both gender and class variables at work. Black men and women with a college education and middle class or higher status are more likely to “marry out” than working class and poor Blacks with less than a college education. But among all classes, Black men are more likely than Black women to marry out.

    • Ozell Israelite says:

      They still marry black people even when they’re middle-class and have an college education so don’t delude yourself kid with this fantasy world you want to be true even though it’s false according to all the statistics.

  5. Robert says:

    Another interesting thing: Among ALL peoples of color in the USA, interracial marriage more often than not means marriage to a white man or woman. Most people of color who “marry out” don’t marry someone from a different group of color, but marry whites. Interracial marriages among different people of color does not mostly happen BETWEEN different people of color most of the time. What is the reason why Blacks, Asians, Latinos and others most often marry whites if they marry out at all?

    • philly g says:

      Because the country is close to 65% white. If the country was 65% Asian, then it would be the same. It’s about availability.

  6. Ozell Israelite says:

    The U.S Census data shows that 85% of college educated black men marry black women so this “data” about “30% supposedly marrying out is false.

  7. Marissa Thompson says:

    The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported that 2021 data showed Black women have higher rates of advanced degrees in professional fields such as law, medicine, dentistry, etc. In 2021, there were 125,000 Black men who had earned a professional degree compared to 139,000 Black women, 151,000 Black men who held doctoral degrees compared to 221,000 Black women. Yet, black women are more likely to marry black men with less education and and less likely to marry interracially than are black men.

    Besides systemic racism, Black families have lower levels of wealth because black women are less likely to be married to black men with comparable levels of education. Yet, black men disproportionately marry non black women, particularly women who are not their (socioeconomic) equal.

    I am a public health researcher who resides in MS, a state with the highest proportion of black residents (39%). All of the interracial couples I have interviewed that were composed of a black woman involved two college educated people; the opposite was true for interracial couples involving college educated black men, who were likely to be married to a white woman with a high school diploma. After searching and trying to marry a black male professional over 10 years while dying other groups of men, namely white men, because black society had taught me to remain blindly loyal to black men, I decided to liberate myself and date men white men. I was engaged and married within 1 year of making that life changing decision.

    Rather than waiting for a college educated black man to marry more black women should focus on marrying their equal rather than within their ethnic group.

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