A study conducted by Ohio State professor of sociology, Zhenchao Qian, found that interracial marriage
between blacks and whites has been on the rise since 1980 in the United States.
Qian hypothesizes that the smaller the barrier between racial ethnic groups, the more likely they are to
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.
While a white person is still most likely to marry another white person, this is likely due to the fact that
whites are still the majority population in many areas. This is true of almost all racial groups. 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. 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.
“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. Example: MTV’s “Jersey
Shore” in which the Nicole “Snookie” Polizzi, a tan guidette, seeks “gorilla juice heads.”
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.
“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. … When you recognize it as ignorance it is easier to rise above
it. … Education, as always, is the key to fostering understanding and mutual respect,” Sheila Smith said
in an e-mail. Sheila is white and the wife of Gene Smith, Ohio State athletic director, who is black.
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.
Immigration can greatly affect interracial marriage rates. For instance, 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. People would typically like to marry someone with a similar cultural background, so the great
numbers of immigrants enabled this.
“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. This suggests a weakening of the racial boundaries,” Dan Lichter, who conducted the study
alongside Qian and is a professor of policy analysis and management and sociology at Cornell University,
said in a press release.
Despite racial barriers being torn down, there is still a lot of work to be done toward complete
“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 e-mail.
As tolerance continues to grow, people become more educated on the about other cultures. With Ohio
State 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.
Caitlin Po, a fourth-year in biology, echoes that Ohio State 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, and one of the best ways that I’ve found (to do this) is through personal relationships,” Po