Intermarriage: Definition & Statistics

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

This lesson will discuss and provide statistics on intermarriage, or the practice of marrying someone who is part of a different group. The lesson will end with a quiz to test your knowledge.

Marriage and Intermarriage

For most people, marriage is a rite of passage. Do you ever think about or plan your own wedding? Who do you imagine yourself marrying? Is it someone like you? Maybe you are already married. Does your spouse share the same ethnic background? What about religion? What happens when someone marries outside of his or her own group? For example, what if a Caucasian male of Norwegian descent marries an Asian woman? This is an example of intermarriage.

This couple represents an intermarriage because they come from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
intermarriage

Definition

Intermarriage occurs when two people from different groups marry. Differences in race or ethnicity, culture, religion, and even socioeconomic status can be considered intermarriage. Intermarriage is also known as heterogamy, or marriage outside one's own group. Homogamy is when one marries someone within his or her own religious, ethnic, or cultural group. Historically, homogamy has been more prevalent than heterogamy, or intermarriage. However, times seem to be changing and intermarriage is on the rise.

Statistics

Intermarriage has become much more common as social norms regarding marriage have changed. In earlier generations, it was very uncommon and socially frowned upon to marry someone from another race or religion. In the past, couples who intermarried were frequently the subjects of social isolation and ridicule. While this is still common practice in many parts of the world, the social tide in America has changed a great deal. According to the Pew Research Center (which analyzed data from the U.S. Census), it is estimated that approximately 15% of all marriages in the United States in 2010 were racial or ethnic intermarriages. That equates to 5.4 million intermarried households! Conversely, the rate of racial or ethnic intermarriage in 1980 was slightly under 7%.

According to the same source, the bulk of the intermarriages in 2010 consisted of a Caucasian and an Hispanic. This group represented nearly 40% of all intermarriages in America. The smallest segment of intermarriages in 2010 consisted of a Caucasian and a Native American or Native Alaskan spouse. This group represented just over 5% of intermarriages in America in 2010.

Regional trends occur in intermarriage as well. Residents of western states are the most likely to marry outside of their own group. Nearly a quarter of all new marriages in the west are intermarriages. The region that has the lowest rate of intermarriage is the midwest. Hawaii takes the title for the state with the highest percentage of intermarriage overall.

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