06/04/2010 08:09 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Intermarriage, Gender, and Nativity

A new report from the Pew Research Center gives the latest numbers on race/ethnic intermarriage. For the first time, the 2008 American Community Survey included a question on marital status changes in the previous year, allowing analysis of the most recent marriages (we normally report data on all currently married couples).

Two things jump out, confirming in dramatic fashion things we knew: gender and nativity patterns.

For Blacks and Asians, the patterns are highly gendered:

For Asians, the pattern is largely about cultural reception and attitudes on both sides. For Blacks it reflects gender-specific racism, as well as demographic patterns (including education, mortality and incarceration) creating imbalanced marriage pools.

Second, Latinos and Asians show big differences in intermarriage by nativity:

This pattern is actually keeping down the trend toward intermarriage for both these groups, as new flows of immigrants are less likely to marry non-Latino Whites. For more on that, including in-depth analysis of immigration and diversity patterns, you might check out the new book by Jennifer Lee and Frank Bean, "The Diversity Paradox: Immigration and the Color Line in Twenty-First Century America."

(By the way, people often talk about these numbers as if cheering for intermarriage. My view on intermarriage is not that it is good per se, but that it is an indicator of social distance between race/ethnic groups in the country. That makes a good measure to study in the aggregate -- it's not personal advice or judgement of people who do or don't do it individually.)

Cross posted from the Family Inequality blog.