Sociology Mind
2011. Vol.1, No.3, 121-129
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/sm.2011.13015
Inter-Ethnic/Interracial Romantic Relationships in the United
States: Factors Responsible for the Low Rates of Marriages
Between Blacks and Whites
Amadu Jacky Kaba
Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, Seton Hall University, South Orange, USA.
Received March 18th, 2011; revised April 20th, 2011; accepted May 23rd, 2011.
This paper examines the status of interracial romantic relationships among non-Black groups and those between
Blacks and non-Blacks in the United States. The research shows that, apart from Blacks, inter-ethnic/interracial
marriages and other forms of romantic unions have increased substantially by the 21st Century. For Black
Americans, however, the data show that just a very tiny fraction of them are involved in interracial romantic re-
lations, including marriages with Whites and other non-White groups. The paper then goes on to present the
factors responsible for this phenomenon.
Keywords: Interracial Dating, Marriage, USA, African Americans, Wealth Transfer
The literature on inter-ethnic/interracial romantic relations in
the United States is beginning to increase at relatively large
rates. Many of the studies on this topic suggest a visible and
continuous increase in such unions by the 21st Century. This is
even the case with African Americans, who experienced the
most severe restrictions to legally marry Whites. Politics has
been the central factor in determining who marries interracially.
In 1967, the Supreme Court of the United States finally ruled
that antimisegenation laws were unconstitutional in the case
Loving v. Virginia. Scholars and authors studying interracial
marriages or unions are beginning to point to interesting re-
search findings showing different trends in the kinds of unions
being formed (Cready & Saenz, 1997; Cretser & Leon, 1982;
Cruz & Berson, 2001; Ellinghaus, 2002; Hwang, Saenz, &
Aguirre, 1995; Jacobs & Labov, 1998, 2002; Kalmijn, 1993;
Kennedy, 2003; McNamara, Tempenis, & Walton 1999; Moran,
2001; Rogers, 1944; Tucker & Mitchell-Kernan, 1990).
Attainment of higher levels of college/university or formal
education has been cited by many scholars as an important
factor in determining who marries interracially or inter- ethni-
cally. Minorities in the United States with higher levels of edu-
cation tend to marry interracially (Cready & Saenz 1997;
Kalmijn, 1993, 1998; Qian, 1997; Wong, 2003). As Blau et al.
(1988) note, differences in individuals’ life-chances increases
as inequality rises. This leads to increase in differences in those
individuals’ customs and behaviors, taste and outlook in life:
“As such social preferences are more different, the probability
of marriage decreases” (p. 649).
This paper examines inter-ethnic/interracial romantic rela-
tionships in the United States, and the participation rates of
African Americans in such unions. It shows that among
non-Black groups, these relationships have become very com-
mon. The paper presents explanations for the factors that cause
increase in inter-ethnic/interracial marriages in the United
States. The paper presents statistics showing that Black-White
and Black-Other romantic relationship rates are very small
relative to the tens of millions of Blacks in the United States.
Finally, the paper goes on to present the factors responsible for
the very tiny proportions of Blacks involved in interracial rela-
tionships including Black-White marriages.
Overview of Inter-Ethnic/Interracial Romantic
Relationships in the United States
Human beings all across the world and throughout history
have mixed inter-ethnically or interracially. This process of
humans’ “…urge to merge”1 has been cited as one primary
reason for the various racial and ethnic groups that now inhabit
the planet Earth.
Interracial marriages in the United States have increased
substantially in the post-Civil Rights era. For example, there
were 310, 000 interracial marriages in the United States in
1970 (.7% of all marriages) (Qian, 1997: p. 263). As of March
2000, there were 1,047,000 interracial married couples and
165,000 interracial unmarried couples in the United States
(Fields and Casper, 2001: p. 15). “This increase is interpreted
as reflecti ng a posi tive cha nge in race rel ations an d a decl ine i n
racism” (Qian, 1997: p. 263). Crowder and Tolnay (2000) also
claim that in 1960, interracial couples comprised less than 4
out of every 1,000 married couples in the United States. In
1998, that figure increased to over 24 per 1,000 married cou-
ples (p. 792).
Table 1 below shows statistics of married couples including
interracial married couples in the United States in 1980 and
2007. According to Table 1, in 1980 there were 49,714,000
1Quote from “Interview with Jonathan Marks.” Jonathan Marks is a mo-
lecular anthropologist who teaches at the University of North Carolina-
Charlotte. He is author of Human Biodiversity and What It Means to Be 98%
Chimpanzee. Interview was for the television program entitled: “Race-The
Power of an Illusion.” Aired in 2004 on PBS Television. Transcript at
married couples in the United States and by 2007 that number
increased to 60,676,000. Out of the 49,714,000 married couples
in 1980,651,000 (1.3%) comprised interracial married couples.
Out of the 60,676,000 married couples in the U.S. in 2007,
interracial married couples comprised 2,281,000 (3.76%). In
1980, Black/White married couples comprised 167, 000
(0.0033%) of all married couples. In 2007, Black/White mar-
ried couples comprised 464,000 (0.008%) of all married cou-
ples. In 1980, Black/Other race married couples comprised
34,000 (0.0007%) of all married couples and 129,000 (0.002%)
in 2007. In 1980, White/Other race married couples accounted
for 450,000 (0.9%) of all married couples and 1,688,000 (2.8%)
of all married couples in 2007 (Table 1).
In the beginning of the 21st Century, the U.S. has the most
diverse people in the world, as a result of its gradual ethnic and
racial merging. The ethnic and racial merging of the peoples
(from the Old World, Africa, Asia and Europe; with the West-
ern Hemisphere being the New World) in the U.S. is happen-
ing in four phases: 1) the successful intermarriage among the
peoples who now constitute the White population 2) the grad-
ual merging between this White population and non-Black
minorities, for example, people from Asian countries such as
Japan, China, India or Southeast Asian nations 3) inter-mar-
riage between Black or African Americans and White Ameri-
cans; and 4) inter-marriage between Blacks and non-Black
minority groups.
Many of the ethnic groups now described as White in the
U.S. were at one time classified as non-White. But as the level
of tolerance in the country improved, the rate of inter-ethnic
romantic relationships increased to the point where most
Whites now have more than one ancestry. For example, in a
report on the ancestries of Americans conducted for the U.S.
Census, Brittingham and De la Cruz (2004) note that of the
estimated 281.4 million people in the country in 2000, 62 mil-
lion (22%) listed multiple ancestries (p. 2; also see Kaba, 2006).
That is a result of the high levels of inter-ethnic/interracial mar-
riages or romantic relationships among Americans. Some of the
early leaders of the country are said to have encouraged inter-
Table 1
Married couples in the United St at e s by race a nd Hi s p anic origin of
spouses: 1980 and 2007.
1980 2007
Group Number
% of
total Number % of
Total 49,714,000 60,676,000
Total Interracial
Married Couples 651,000 1.3 2,281,0003.76
White/Black 167,000 0.0033 464,0000.008
Black husband/White wife 122,000 0.0024 338,0000.0056
White husband/Black wife 45,000 0.0009 126,0000.0021
White/Other race 450,000 0.9 1,688,0002.8
Black/Other race 34,000 0.0007 129,0000.002
Hispanic/Hispanic 1,906,000 3.8 6,261,00010.3
Hispanic/Other orig in
(not Hispanic ) 891,000 1.8 2,241,0003.7
All other couples
(not of Hispanic origin) 46,917,000 94.4 52,173,00086
Source: Compiled and computed from “Table 59. Married Couples by Race and
Hispanic Origin of Spouses: 1980 to 2007,” Statistical Abstract of the United
States. U.S. C ensus Bureau. Retrieved on Septembe r 5, 2009 from:
ethnic and interracial romantic relationships. Brown (2001)
notes that Thomas Jefferson, the nation’s third president was
quoted to have encouraged Indians and Whites to “…meet and
blend together…intermix, and become one people” (p. 137).
Jeter (1982) points out that due to the rapid advancement of
communication and transportation technologies, the rates of
cross-ethnic/racial marriages have advanced to the point where
they are “… closing space and providing time to test and ex-
periment with one’s interpersonal relationships” (p. 105). In a
review of the book The Melting Pot and the Altar: Marital
Assimilation in Early Twentieth-Century Wisconsin (Bernard,
1981), Jeter (1982) points out that in 1880, the exogamy rates
[the rate of marrying outside one’s ethnic group or race] in
Wisconsin for first and second-generation Eastern European
immigrants were 21.0% and 30.8% respectively. In 1910, the
exogamy rates for Western European immigrants was 34.5%
for the first-generation and 46.6% for the second-generation. In
Hawaii, Jeter notes that over half of all marriages by 1982 were
intercultural (p. 105). As of March 2000, there were 452,000
White/Asian married couples in the United States comprising
White males and Asian Pacific Islander (API) females, and 203,
000 married couples with API males and White females (Fields
& Casper, 2001)
Endogamy (marrying within one’s ethnic group) is substan-
tially lower in the U.S. for European ethnic groups than other
racial groups. According to Kalmijn (1998), the estimated per-
centages of Americans who are married endogamously were
25% for “(unmixed)” European ethnic subgroups, 75% for
Asians subgroups, 65% for Hispanic subgroups, 45% for
American Indians and 95% for African Americans (pp.
406-407). Religion has been influential in determining who
members of particular religions or denominations must marry.
Kalmijn (1998) points out that in the 1970s, an estimated 62%
of Catholics, 84% of Protestants and 80% of Jews were married
endogamously (pp. 407-408). Sassler (2005: p. 626) presents a
table (Table 3) entitled: “Exponentiated Coefficients for Out-
marriage of White Ethnics, By Partner Choice” in the United
States in 1910, and among the White ethnic groups listed are:
English, Irish German, Italian, Jewish and Polish. According to
Sassler (2005): “The English were evidently the most suitable
marriage partners, acceptable both to other white ethnics and to
the native stock. The Irish appear as second in the hierarchy of
desirability for those selecting partners from outside their own
ethnic group…Although outmarriage increased over the gen-
erations for Germans, it accelerated more rapidly among the
Old ethnics” (pp. 626-627).
As the statistics above show, almost all of the ethnic/racial
groups in the country have increased substantially the share of
their members who marry or engaged in romantic relationships
with members of other groups. One major exception has been
African Americans, partly due to negative views of them by the
larger society throughout the nation’s history (Oliver & Wong,
2003: p. 568). By the start of the 20th Century, marriages be-
tween African Americans and Whites in “major American cit-
ies” were less than 1% of all African American marriages
(Kalmijn, 1993: p. 122). Before examining the factors cited for
the low rates of interracial romantic relationships between
Blacks and Whites, and other groups, it is useful to present
some factors for the relative increase in numbers of in-
ter-ethnic/interracial marriages or unions in the United States.
A. J. KABA 123
Some Factors Cited for the Increase in Inter-Ethnic/
Interracial Marriages or Unions in the United States
Increase in Tolerance in the United States
One important factor cited for the increased numbers of in-
ter-ethnic/interracial romantic relationships or unions in the
United States is the increase in tolerance among the people of
the United States (Brace et al., 2002; Mondak & Sanders, 2003).
Mondak and Sanders (2003) point out that in measuring intol-
erance using a scale ranging from 0 - 15, with high scores rep-
resenting intolerance, the level of intolerance declined from
7.24 in 1977 to 5.28 in 1998, a 27% decline (pp. 493-494).
According to Brace et al. (2002), from 1974-1998, 60% of the
people in the United States (excluding Hawaii, Idaho, Maine,
Nebraska, Nevada and New Mexico) were tolerant (p. 176).
Assimilation, the gradual acceptance of minority groups into
the larger mainstream society, has also been cited as a major
contributor to the increase in inter-ethnic/interracial romantic
relationships, including marriage in the United States (Acquye,
2007: p. 8; Gullickson, 2006: pp. 673-674; Jacobson & Heaton,
2003: p. 1; Sassler, 2005: pp. 610-611). As Jacobson and
Heaton (2003) note: “Inter-marriage between individuals of
different racial and ethnic groups long has been used as an in-
dicator of assimilation and acceptance of different racial and
ethnic groups in society” (p. 1). According to Sassler (2005),
“Intermarriage is often described as the final stage in the as-
similation process” and points to an earlier study that notes that:
“…assimilation paradigm posits that as immigrants acculturate
to the norms and values of the host society, they will increas-
ingly become acceptable marriage partners for members of the
dominant group” (p. 610). Gullickson (2006) connected formal
educational attainment to assimilation by noting that: “Accord-
ing to structural assimilation theory, education and educational
system play key roles in the structural assimilation of groups
because they promote universalistic and democratic norms,
which tend to break down group barriers” (p. 675).
Socioeconomic/Status Exchange Theory and
Scholars have also pointed to the theory of Status Exchange,
which is linked to Socioeconomic Status and education level of
individuals in society as contributing factors to the visible in-
crease in inter-ethnic/interracial romantic relationships, including
marriage (Fenyo, 2001: p. 334; Fryer Jr., 2007: pp. 82 & 85;
Gullickson, 2006: pp. 674- 675; Jacobson & Heaton, 2003, 2 008;
Reiter et al., 2005: p. 451; Sassler, 2005: p. 611; Wang & Kao,
2007: pp. 147 & 155). “According to status-caste exchange the-
ory…members of a lower-status group are more likely to marry
members of a higher-status group if they can offer higher socio-
economic status to compensate for their lower racial status….The
use of status-caste exchange theory to explain the nature of inter-
racial pairing indicates an underlying hierarchical ordering of
groups, with whites having the highest racial status, followed by
Asians, Hispanic s, and blacks…” (Wang and Ka o, 2007: p. 147).
Wang and Kao (2007) also point out that, “… we find that hig her
SES Hispanics are more likely to participate in interracial dating
than their lower SES counterparts…” (p. 155). According to
Jacobson and Heaton (2003): “Members of minority groups are
said to exchange high socioeconomic advantage to overcome the
socially perceived disadvantage of minority status…” (p. 3).
Gullickson (2006) points to two earlier studies that
“…argued that interracial marriages would frequently involve
an exchange of status characteristics. Highly educated blacks
would trade their educational status in order to reap the benefits
associated with the racial status of a potential white spouse.
Similarly, whites with low levels of education would trade their
racial status of a potential black spouse” (p. 674). Fryer Jr.
(2007) notes that “Interracial marriages are now more concen-
trated among those with higher levels of education” (p. 79).
Wang and Kao (2007) point to research that claims “…that
those who engaged in interracial relationships have high educa-
tion/economic status regardless of the race of their partners…”
(p. 148). Jacobson and Heaton (2003) note that: “Education has
been linked to higher rates of heterogamy… Like the military,
colleges provide norms that are more accepting and tolerant of
inter-racial dating than in the larger society. Colleges also pro-
vide increased opportunity for inter-group contact, dating, and
marriage…” (p. 4).
Geographic Location
Geography plays an important role in the formation of in-
ter-ethnic/interracial romantic relationships (Fryer Jr., 2007: pp.
81-82; Gullickson, 2006: pp. 676-677; Jacobson & Heaton,
2008: p. 130; Kalmijn, 1998; Wang & Kao, 2007). As Kalmijn
(1998) notes, the chance or opportunity to meet a person from
another ethnic/racial group depends “…on the way a group is
dispersed geographically… Groups that are concentrated in
specific regions of the country generally have more opportunity
to marry endogamously than groups that are not” (p. 403).
Wang and Kao (2007) point to research which claims that
“…Hispanic and Asian Americans are more likely to live in
predominantly white neighborhoods than are their Afri-
can-American counterparts” (p. 148).
The military is an institution that brings together males and
females from all types of ethnic or racial backgrounds, thereby
causing them to get to know one another, leading in some cases
to inter-ethnic or interracial romantic relationships, including
marriage. The military also moves its members from one region
of the country to another and from one country or continent to
another, thereby causing them to meet and interact with people
from diverse backgrounds. According to Jacobson and Heaton
(2003): “Because the military services promote an attitudinal
environment that is often at variance with the traditional group
and cultural norms, acceptance of other groups is higher in the
military services than in society as a whole….In sum, military
personnel have contact with other groups and cultures both in
the United States and abroad, under favorable conditions, that
may reduce resistance to outgroup marriage” (p. 2). Writing on
the influence of the military on interracial romantic relation-
ships, Fryer Jr. (2007) also points out that: “Soldiers are forced
to interact and trust individuals of various ethnic and racial
groups…The military is currently believed to be as racially
integrated as any U.S. institution…” (pp. 80-81).
Age has also been cited for the increase in cross-cultural ro-
mantic relationships. Younger individuals are said to be more
open to such relationships (Joyner & Kao, 2000; McWhorter,
2003: pp. 70-71; Model & Fisher, 2001; Reiter et al., 2005: pp.
449-450; Rosenfeld & Kim, 2005; Wilensky, 2002). According
to Model and Fisher (2001), “… younger people are expected
to exhibit higher rates because the passage of time is associated
with increasing tolerance for exogamy” (p. 179). Moreover,
America’s schools and colleges are more diverse than ever
before and the teachers and professors are teaching students not
to judge people based on their ethnic or racial backgrounds,
rather they should judge people based on their character. Age
seems to make a significant difference in the perception of in-
terracial dating and marriages, with younger Americans show-
ing less opposition to such relationships. In a public opinion
poll, among those who answered that it is ‘better to marry your
own race, 68% were 65 years or over, 52% were 50 to 64 years,
34% were 30 to 49 years and 17% were 18 to 29 years (Fears,
& Deane, 2001). According to Reiter et al. (2005), in the
United States: “…57% of teenagers had dated someone outside
their race, 30% had indicated that they would consider dating
outside their race…” (p. 450).
Due to increased interactions between youths of all races and
ethnicities, and the increase of television programs and Holly-
wood movies depicting interracial activities and relationships,
most young people today of any race tend to be tolerant of
members of other ethnic or racial groups. As McWhorter (2003)
observes, “…increasingly movies for teens depict a world
where, with no particular attention called to it, blacks and
whites coexist in easy harmony” (pp. 70-71). Yancey (2002)
notes that: “Perhaps the propagation of images of romantic
interracial relationships through mass media has made interra-
cial dating a viable practice regardless of which region one
lives within” (p. 187).
Jeter (1982) presents examples provided by researchers for
the motivations for inter-ethnic/interracial or cross-cultural
marriages. Among the many examples presented are:
“Western marriage values love. Love may be the healthy tie
that binds two people as well as the push to be involved in spite
of cultural differences.
Chance and availability are important motives, especially for
intercultural couples.
An adventuresome need to be different and an eagerness to
be with the new is often a personality trait of partners in an
intercultural marriage.
Reasons may be practical such as improvement of financial
and social status.
A person may marry i nto the culture of an early careta ke r.
Belief systems about other cultures may be the motive for a
marriage” (p. 105).
Let us now turn to understanding why the factors cited above
for the increase in interracial marriages in the United States
only partially apply to Black Americans.
Factors Responsible for Fewer Interracial Marriages
Involving Black Americans
If all of the reasons cited above have contributed to the rela-
tive high rates of cross-cultural and interracial romantic rela-
tionships in the history of the United States, why have the rates
of such relationships between Blacks and Whites, the two
groups (apart from Native Americans) who are the oldest in-
habitants of the country, been not as high as predicted or ex-
pected? Many scholars have attempted to answer this question
(Breger & Hill, 1998; Chatters, Taylor, & Jayakody, 1994; Cruz
& Berson, 2001; Gordon-Reed, 1997; Hibbler & Shinew, 2002;
Hodes, 1999; Hughes, 2003; Johnson, 2004; Kalmijn, 1993;
Kennedy, 2003; Leslie, 1996; McNamara, Tempenis, & Walton,
1999; Moran, 2001; Rothman, 1998; Storrs, 1997; Wong, 2003).
The proportion of Whites and other non-Black minority
groups in the United States that support interracial marriages
between Blacks and non-Blacks has increased substantially. But
the contradiction is that the rates of Black-White marriages are
still extremely low, meaning that increase in support does not
mean actually getting involve in marriages with Blacks. More-
over, even non-Black minorities also tend not to want to be in
interracial marriages with Black Americans. A 1958 poll found
that 96% of Whites disapproved of marriages between Blacks
and Whites. However, in 1997, 77% approved of such mar-
riages (Kristof, 2004: p. A23). When the question “How do you
think you would react if a member of your family told you they
were going to marry [Black, White, Latino and Asian]…?” was
asked, 86% of Black respondents answered that it would be fine
with them if a member of their family married a white, 86%
supported marrying an Asian, and 85% supported marrying a
Latino. For Latino respondents, 86% answered that they would
be fine if a member of their family were to marry a White , 79%
supported marrying an Asian, and 74% supported marrying a
Black person. For Asian respondents, 77% answered that it
would be fine with them if a member of their family were to
marry a White, 71% supported marrying a Latino, and 66%
supported marrying a Black person. For Whites respondents,
66% answered that it would be fine with them if a member of
their family were to marry a Latino, 65% supported marrying
an Asian, and 55% supported marrying a Black person (Fears,
& Deane, 2001). The figures above show that significant pro-
portions of Whites, Asians and Hispanics tend not to support
family members who marry Blacks, partly due to negative
views of Blacks (Oliver & Wong, 2003: p. 569). Moreover, as
already noted above, even with the majority of these
non-Blacks showing support for marriages with Blacks, the
actual marriage figures involving Black Americans are ex-
tremely low relative to the total Black and non-Black popula-
tions. For example, as of 2007, there were 40,744,000 Blacks or
in combination with another race in the United States;
199,092,000 non-Hispanic Whites; 45,504,000 Hispanics;
and13,080,000 Asians.2 Let us now examine some interrelated
factors responsible for this phenomenon.
Family and Racial Community Acceptance of Inter-
racial Romantic Relationships
Authors and scholars have pointed out that African Ameri-
cans are more accepting of interracial romantic relationships
(Leslie, 1996). Leslie (1996) points to observations that White
American families were less accepting of interracial romantic
2Source: “Table 6. Resident Population by Sex, Race, and Hispanic-Origin
Status: 2000 to 2007,” Statistical Abstract of the United States. U.S. Census
Bureau. R etrieved on September 19, 2009 from:
A. J. KABA 125
relationships than African American families. The reason for
this was that Black mothers play a primary role within their
families and that they tend to be more open and to relate to
Whites than White men, who play a key role within their fami-
lies, but tend to be less likely to accept people from outside
racial groups. Leslie (1996) also claims that African American
families tend to accept White in-laws because of an Africentric
heritage, which normally “…emphasize the inclusion of blood
grandchildren…. close blood ties among African American
families are related more to this Africentric concept on immor-
tality and strong family traditions than to clannishness” (pp.
530-531). Kalmijn (1993) notes that among the reasons why
White women marry Black men is that “…white women are
generally more tolerant towards blacks than white men are” (p.
140), and also points to a 1990 U.S. Census survey, however,
that shows lower proportions of White men than White women
who support laws banning Black-White marriages: “… 24% of
white women favored these laws, while only 17.4% of white
men did so (N754). When we just focus on high school gradu-
ates, the difference is of a similar magnitude, 21.5% for women
and 16.2% for men (p. 140).
Kalmijn (1993) notes that after the abolition of slavery, there
began a gradual decline in the formal inequality that had previ-
ously existed between Blacks and Whites, especially in the
southern United States. This decline in inequality caused con-
cerns and anxiety among Whites because Blacks were begin-
ning to cross boundaries that were once not available to them.
As a result, Kalmijn points out that: “Interracial dating and
marriage were condemned with great vigor, and social norms
emerged against interracial contacts with possible erotic under-
tones, such as interracial dancing and swimming” and antimis-
cegenation laws were eventually passed (pp. 121-122).
According to Hibbler and Shinew (2002), a large portion of
historical literature “… suggests that interracial marriage may
have a number of negative effects on the couples and their chil-
dren… Among the suggested negative effects are anxiety, in-
security, guilt, anger, depression, and identity conflicts” (p.
138). Discussing why a small percentage of Black men are
married to White women, Wong (2003) claims that the mating
taboo, individual differences and limited opportunities for
courtship between Blacks and Whites are among the factors
responsible (p. 804). Porterfield (1982) claims that due to the
need “…to maintain their cohesiveness and identity” ethnic and
racial groups develop rules to prevent intermarriages. Those
rules may be based on variables such as social class, eth-
nic/racial, religious, cultural and political differences. Porter-
field adds that: “No other mixture touches off such widespread
condemnation as black-white race mixing” (p. 17).
The evidence also shows that both Blacks and Whites, for
various reasons, have opposed interracial marriages (Kalmijn,
1993; Kennedy, 2003; Leslie, 1996; Mazrui, 2003; Paset &
Taylor, 1991; Storrs, 1997; Williams & Thornton, 1998;
Yancey, 2002), but such opposition does not necessarily mean
racism, rather it is due to group pride (De Figueiredo Jr. & El-
kins, 2003; Herring, Jankowski, & Brown, 1999). In a review
of the book Multiracial Couples (Rosenblatt et al., 1995), Les-
lie (1996) summarizes the book by pointing out that:
“The authors note that the opposition of White families to
interracial marriage had to do with matters of safety and well-
being, the alleged clannishness of African American families,
and the likelihood of a poor economic future. In contrast, Afri-
can American families tended to oppose these marriages be-
cause of the risk of marrying down educationally, the impor-
tance of the sons of Black feminists marrying Black women,
and the rejection of Black femininity that seems to be implied
by Black sons marrying White women” (p. 530).
Storrs (1997) points out that, racial communities oppose in-
terracial relationships because of the challenges they pose to
both Black and White identity. For Blacks, Storrs notes that to
marry out mea ns disloyalty to the race, due largely to the Afri-
can American community’s emphasis on “…strong black iden-
tities.” In the case of Whites, Storrs notes that “… being in-
volved in an interracial relationship made their whiteness sali-
ent in ways that most Euroamericans never experienced” (p.
326). Research shows that African Americans who are older,
less-educated and reside in urban areas, and highly educated
African Americans, who reside outside the Western region of
the U.S., tend to feel closer bond with other African Americans
(Williams & Thornton, 1998: p. 256).
Group Size and Third Party Influence
Group size and Third Party Influence have been explained as
contributing to the low rates of Black Americans involved in
interracial romantic relationships, including marriages (Jacob-
son & Heaton, 2003, 2008; Wang & Kao, 2007). Jacobson and
Heaton (2003) point to research that “…argue that relative
group size is critical in determining the amount of outgroup
contact that individuals are likely to experience. …Since group
size is inversely related to the chances that individuals will
marry out of their own group, a setting where traditional barri-
ers are low is likely to have higher than normal rates of inter-
marriage” (p. 2). Jacobson and Heaton (2003) also add that,
“Cultural norms and prejudice are also part of the nexus of
segregation” (p. 2). Wang and Kao (2007) write of group size
by noting that “…the larger the relative group size, the smaller
the chances that members from that group will participate in
interracial dating” (p. 154).
Writing on the influence of “Third Parties” to negatively in-
fluence marriage between individuals, Jacobson and Heaton
(2008) note that research “…has shown that third parties
strongly influence rates of interracial marriage…even when
segregation is not high, some individuals choose not to have
contact with members of other groups, again reflecting the in-
fluence of third parties. The presence of large numbers of
members of other groups may actually be perceived as a racial
threat….Salient group identity and group sanctions are strong
third-party influences” (p. 130). Johnson (2006) presents the
following quote explaining how Whites reacted to the late great
Black American boxing champion Jack Johnson’s romantic
relationships with White women:
Given that Black men were routinely terrorized and lynched
on the strength of any hint that they had intimate associations
with White women, the Black community was correct in as-
suming that Johnson’s unapologetic romantic and sexual inter-
est in women of that race would be taken as an audacious act of
rebellion against the constraints of the American racial caste
system. …perhaps most immediately, there were also matters of
ego—White men feared competition from Black men for the
attention of women (p. 751).
Marginalization and Stigma
Other factors that have been noted to influence interracial ro-
mantic relations involving Black Americans are Marginalization
and Stigma (Alexander, 2007; Jacobson & Heaton, 2008; Leh-
miller & Agnew, 2007; Twine & Steinbugler, 2006; Vaquera &
Kao, 2005; Yancey, 2007). Twine and Steinbugler (2006) cite
the research of Ruth Frankenberg (1993) in which Frankenberg:
“…argues that White women in primary relationships with
people of color develop an acute awareness of the symbolic and
material dimensions of racism. She suggests that, as intimates
of Black men or women, White women experience ‘rebound
racism’ through encounters that are secondhand and diffuse, but
still painful. Racial pressures, she notes, also create tensions
inside the relationship, as White partners struggle with their
position vis-à-vis U.S. racism. Significantly, Frankenberg
demonstrate that, through interracial intimacy, White women
find themselves ‘in changed positions in the racial order, albeit
on contingent and provisional terms” (p. 343).
Yancey (2007) points to research that:
“…illustrates how racialization is connected to racial
stigma….It is plausible to argue that interracial marriages con-
taining African-A merican s may suffer mo re in our racialized soci-
ety than interracial marriages without African-Americans….re-
search indicates that sanctions directed at marriages between
whites and blacks are more powerful than sanctions directed at
marriages between whites and non-black racial minorities. Be-
cause of the higher level of hostility, whites married to blacks may
have different experiences than whites married to other racial
minorities. These differential realities can reflect the potential
racism black/white couple s ha ve historically faced and c ontinue to
experience” (p. 198).
Alexander (2007) writes that: “Although laws occasionally
prevented other groups from intermarrying, all antimiscegena-
tion laws criminalized marriage between blacks and whites.
Moreover, the belief in the “one-drop rule,” the idea that
“‘black blood’ contaminated and overpowered ‘white blood’,”
made black-white relationships more controversial than those
between whites and members of other races” (pp. 218-219).
According to Lehmiller and Agnew (2007): “…individuals
involved in primarily nontraditional romantic partnerships (i.e.
same gender, interracial, and age gap…)” (p. 1036) perceive
such unions as marginalized relationships and that it affects
such unions:
“One possibility is that those who perceive higher levels of
marginalization decide to keep their relationships secret from
others. The consequences of secrecy, though, may include decre-
ments in relationship satisfaction and overall relationship quality
or increases in perceived relationship burden....Marginalization
might lead to perceiving alternative roma ntic as more desira ble to
the extent that dissolving the current and selecting an alternative
partner would reduce or eliminate felt prejudice (e.g., an interra-
cial relationship partner selecting a partner fro m the same racial or
ethnic group. Marginalization might also reduce the amount of
social support that one receives for one’s relationship” (Lehmiller
& Agnew, 2007, p. 1038).
According to Vaquera and Kao (2005): “There is some evi-
dence from qualitative research suggesting that interracial cou-
ples do share common experiences with stigmatized individuals,
such as social pressures and rejection, and that as a result they
diminish their social exposure by going out less often to have
dinner or to the movies…” (p. 486). In an interview with Televi-
sion host Gil Noble, re-aired in the summer of 2009 on ABC
television in New York City on a program called “Like It Is”,
the late prominent Black American entertainer and actor Sammy
Davies Jr. acknowledged that when he married his White wife,
he experienced a lot of pressure from both Black and White
Americans who criticized him for marrying a White woman and
that pressure eventually contributed to their divorce.
The History of Forced Sexual Relations on Blacks by
Whites in the United States
The history of forced sexual relations upon Black Americans
is a potential contributing factor as to why there are so few
Black-White interracial marriages in the United States, despite
the over 199 million non-Hispanic Whites and over 42 million
Blacks in the country. This is because Black males and espe-
cially so Black females, want to have control of their bodies
and determine who it is they want to enter into romantic rela-
tions with. Reading painful accounts of how Both White males
and White females could force Blacks into sexual activities
without their consent makes it difficult for most of the descen-
dants of those Blacks to enter into romantic relationships with
Whites—a psychological factor. According to Yarbrough
(2005): “In the eyes of many ex-slaves, relationships between
whites and blacks were usually matters of forced sex between
the powerful and the powerless: ‘[I]mmoral white men have, by
force, injected their blood into our veins….’” (p. 560).
Yarbrough (2005) continues by writing that:
“The dynamics and differentials of power between masters
and slaves complicate the notions of consent and choice. The
subtext for interaction of this sort is the threat of violence: both
slaves and masters recognized that masters could force their
will upon slaves by means of physical punishment. The pros-
pect of violent reprisal impinged on decisions by slaves to
comply with or resist the sexual demands of masters….Ellen
Sinclair recounted the incestuous tangle of relationships on the
plantation where she grew up: ‘Ol’ man Anderson he hab a
daughter by one of he slaves and he son hab a chile by dat
daughter [his half-sister]. Dey mek de wimmen do what dey
want and cose, dey slaves and coultn’ help deyself” (p. 565).
Writing about the legacy of slavery in the U.S. pertaining to
forced romantic relationships between Blacks and Whites,
Firmin and Firebaugh (2008) note that: “Caucasian and African
American Romantic relationships are not new and evidence
suggests their occurrence from before the time of slavery.
During slave times opposition between these two races was
exacerbated by some slave owners raping African American
women. Evidence also suggests that some Caucasian women
used African American slaves as concubines” (p. 782).
In a study of 100 African American female college students,
to determine their rates of interracial romantic relationships,
Porter and Bronzaft (1995) found that 87% of them prefer
Black males, 1% prefer White males, 4% prefer Hispanic males,
2% prefer Asian males and 2% prefer the group of males called
“Other” (pp. 167-168).
Politics/Laws Preventing Blacks from Interracial
An important additional factor that is responsible for the very
A. J. KABA 127
low proportion of Black-White marriages is that for a good
portion of U.S. history, there actually existed laws banning
interracial sex or marriages, especially those involving a person
of Black African descent. Politics has been a primary factor for
the unmet predictions of high rates of marriages between
Blacks and Whites in the United States.
For example, Fryer Jr. (2007) presents a table (Table 1)
showing states that never had laws prohibiting interracial mar-
riage: Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas (such a law existed,
but repealed before statehood), Minnesota, New Hampshire,
New Mexico (such a law existed, but repealed before state-
hood), New Jersey, New York (a law existed against interracial
sex when it was New Amsterdam, a colony of the Dutch),
Vermont, Washington (such a law existed, but repealed before
statehood), an d W i s c o ns i n .
The following states repealed laws prohibiting interracial
marriages before 1900: Illinois (1874), Iowa (1851), Maine
(1883), Massachusetts (1843), Michigan (1883), Ohio (1887),
Pennsylvania (1780), and Rhode Island (1881). The following
states repealed laws prohibiting interracial marriages after 1900
and before the 1967 Loving decision: Arizona (1962), Califor-
nia (1948), Colorado (1957), Idaho (1959), Indiana (1965),
Maryland (1967), Montana (1953), Nebraska (1963), Nevada
(1959), North Dakota (1955), Oregon (1951), South Dakota
(1957), Utah (1963), and Wyoming (1965).
Finally, the following states repealed laws prohibiting interra-
cial marriage after the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court Loving deci-
sion, claiming that such laws were unconstitutional: Alabama,
Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana,
Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Caro-
lina, Texas, Tenness ee, Virginia, and West Virginia (p. 74).
Concern about the Potential Transfer of Wealth in
Interracial Marriages
Another important factor that might have caused opposition
to interracial marriages, especially Black-White marriage is
economics, money or the concern for the potential transfer of
wealth. Cruz and Berson (2001) note that “economic exploita-
tion” was the real reason for miscegenation laws (p. 80). Oliver
and Wong (2003) also present a similar observation (p. 569).
Let me attempt to explain how the concern for transfer of
wealth in interracial marriages leads to the small number of
Black-White marriages. For Whites, since White men in par-
ticular have an advantage than everyone else in society to earn
higher incomes and the inheritance laws of the U.S. give the
surviving spouse the rights to all of the wealth acquired during
marriage, they find it useful to oppose such marriages because
of fear of a White husband dying and a Black female spouse
taking over their estate. The same also happens when a Black
man marries a White woman and since he is likely to die before
his White wife, and as the data above show that highly accom-
plished Black males marry White females, then these Black
males are more likely to transfer their wealth to the White Wife
and thereby the White race .
This transfer of wealth actually impacts the Black community
more severely, because proportionally, there are fewer wealthy
Blacks than Whites and the life expectancy of Blacks is lower
than that for Whites. For example, in 2006, out of 94,029,000
White alone males, 6,0 18,000 (6.4%) earned $100, 000 or more ;
299,000 (2.35%) out of 12,716,000 Black alone males; 2,606,000
(2.7%) out of 97,550,000 White alone females; and 213,000
(1.4%) out of 15, 413, 00 0 Black alone females. 3 As of 2005, the
average life expectancy at birth in the United States was 77.8
years; 80.8 years for White females; 76.5 years for Black females;
75.7 years for White males and 69.5 years for Black males.4
The data in this paper have illustrated that by the beginning
of the 21st Century, inter-ethnic marriages or romantic unions
have increased substantially among those individuals catego-
rized as White in the United States. There has also been a sig-
nificant increase in the number of marriages or romantic unions
between individuals in this White group and non-Black minor-
ity groups in the United States. For Black Americans, the data
reveal that while there is a visible increase of them getting in-
volved in interracial marriages or romantic unions, overall, it is
a very tiny fraction for a group with over 42 million members.
It appears that the very low rates of interracial marriages be-
tween Blacks and Whites have influenced or impacted similar
relationships between Blacks and other non-Black minority
groups in the United States.
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