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Drop in interethnic marriage

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POSTED: March 31, 2007 5:13 a.m.
Once upon a time, there was trouble if you married outside of your ethnic group. It wasn’t until 1967 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, and not everybody loved Lucy and Ricky.
Now, we are told, we might be headed for trouble because people are marrying inside their ethnic group.
The issue was raised by academics Zhenchao Qian and Daniel Lichter in the February issue of American Sociological Review.
Their paper claims the number of U.S.-born Hispanic men who married non-Hispanic white women declined from 35.3 percent in 1990 to 31.9 percent in 2000. And that the number of native-born Asian-American men in intermarriages with white women declined too in the 1990s, from 50.2 percent to 45.8 percent. In contrast, Census figures say between 1970 and 1990, intermarriage figures increased.
Sociologists believe ethnic intermarriage is one of the most important hallmarks of assimilation into the larger society. Does this decline mean that Hispanics and Asians are becoming more isolated?
Other studies on intermarriage show there’s no need to fret. One paper published in June 2005 in the journal Population Bulletin said only 5 percent of Hispanics with less than a high-school education married outside the group, compared with 28 percent of Hispanic men and 35 percent of Hispanic women with a college degree. Still another study, sponsored by the Russell Sage Foundation in 2003, said 57 percent of third-generation Hispanics married non-Hispanics.
So there you have it. The more educated you are and the longer your family has lived here, the more likely you are to mix it up with someone from a different background.
Perhaps surprisingly, says the Qian and Lichter study, the number of blacks who married whites went from 8.3 percent to 14.9 percent in the 1990s. The rate is substantially lower than for Hispanics and Asians, but it is growing, not declining like it is for the other “minorities.”
This draws attention to the central difference among the groups lumped together as “minorities.” The old taboos against race mixing were aimed at African-Americans much more than at Asians or Hispanics
When it comes to Asian-white marriages, today almost nobody thinks twice about the mixed ethnicity of actor Keanu Reeves or “Today” show anchor Ann Curry. When it comes to Hispanics, it’s not even accurate to speak of “interracial” marriages, since Hispanics may be of any race.
But when it comes to African-Americans, the line was drawn so sharply — blacks here, whites there, and don't you dare cross — that it is still visible.
This accounts for the much lower intermarriage rate for blacks. Yet the line is becoming blurred, which accounts for the increase in black-white marriages.
Ricky was allowed to love Lucy as early as 1951. But it took until 1968 for the first interracial kiss — never mind marriage — on a U.S. television series, when Lt. Uhura and Capt. Kirk touched lips on “Star Trek.”
Their smooch was involuntary, forced by the telekinetic powers of the nasty leaders of the planet Platonius.

Hernandez is a syndicated columnist and writer-in-residence at New Jersey Institute of Technology.
 

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