Interracial marriage between blacks and whites has been on the rise in the U.S. since 1980, according to a study conducted by Ohio State professor of sociology, Zhenchao Qian.
Qian hypothesizes that the smaller the barrier between racial ethnic groups, the more likely they are to intermarry.
Using about 3 million people from the U.S. Census Bureau, Qian was able to analyze the data and notice changes in race relations over a period of almost 30 years.
A white person is still most likely to marry another white person. This is likely due whites being the majority population in many areas, according to Qian’s study.
This tendency to marry within one’s racial group is true of almost all other racial groups as well. Aside from American Indians, in which about half marry whites, races are most likely to marry among themselves than among other racial groups.
One possible reason for intermarrying different races is population size, according to the study. If there are not many suitable options for marriage within a race, a person might turn to other races to find a partner.
Another possible reason for interracial marriage is integration, the study said.
“American Indians tend to be more integrated over time, especially those who live in large cities and metropolitan areas. They’re far more integrated than those living on reservations or tribes,” Qian said.
The same trend can also be seen with other races. If certain racial or ethnic groups stay in a secluded community as opposed to an integrated city, they’re more likely to intermarry, according to Qian.
Socioeconomic status and education also play a role in interracial marriage.
“What we found is the more educated a person is, the more that person is involved in an interracial marriage. This is not only true for minorities but also true for whites,” Qian said.
When people are educated about another culture or race, they are less likely to be ignorant and integration becomes easier, according to the study.
Sheila Smith, wife of OSU’s athletic director Gene Smith, said their family exemplifies interracial marriage. Gene Smith is black, Sheila Smith is white.
“My husband and I work with a group of young African-American males on campus, and we listen to their stories. Yes, ignorance still exists,” Sheila Smith said in an email. “When you recognize it as ignorance it is easier to rise above it.”
Sheila Smith said the best way to combat ethnic ignorance is education, which mirrors the findings of Qian’s study.
“Education, as always, is the key to fostering understanding and mutual respect,” Sheila Smith said in an email.
Caitlin Po, a fourth-year in biology, said that OSU is a great place for cultural integration. Po’s parents are in an interracial marriage.
“I think it is really important for understanding different people to understand the culture that they come from,” Po said. “One of the best ways that I’ve found (to do this) is through personal relationships.”
According to the study, the most substantial increase in interracial marriages was among African-Americans. In 1980, the rate of interracial marriage was 3 percent and it rose to 10.7 percent by 2008, according to the study.
The study also said immigration can greatly affect interracial marriage rates.
Qian noticed a slight dip in interracial marriages among Asians and whites and also a minute increase in interracial marriages between Hispanics and whites.
This is likely due to the influx of Asian and Hispanic immigrants since 1980, according to Qian. People typically like to marry someone with a similar cultural background, Qian suggests the great numbers of immigrants enabled this.
Dan Lichter, who conducted the study alongside Qian and is a professor of policy analysis and management and sociology at Cornell University, said this study suggests there is a higher racial tolerance.
“There wasn’t a great increase in black immigrants into the United States, so the rise in black-white intermarriages really suggests greater racial tolerance and a new openness to marrying outside one’s own race,” Lichter said in a press release. “This suggests a weakening of the racial boundaries.”
Despite racial barriers being torn down, there is still a lot of work to be done toward complete tolerance, according to Sheila Smith.
“With each generation, it seems that civil rights – human rights – for all people become more embedded in the norm. It’s called progress,” Sheila Smith said in an email.
With OSU being such a diverse campus, it is a great way to assimilate other cultures.
“College campuses are really a place that there are a lot of opportunities for interracial contact and a way for a better understanding of people’s different races,” Qian said.