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Marriages Across Racial, Ethnic Lines on the Rise, Study Says

By Lesli A. Maxwell — February 16, 2012 1 min read

As the number of couples marrying across racial and ethnic lines continues to grow in the United States, public attitudes toward intermarriage are also becoming more accepting, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

Couples of differing races or ethnic backgrounds comprised 15.1 percent of all new marriages in 2010, while the share of all current marriages that are either interracial or interethnic reached an all-time high of 8.4 percent, Pew found. That’s a big jump from 1980 when just 3 percent of all marriages and less than 7 percent of all new marriages were across racial or ethnic lines.

Asians and Hispanics have the highest level of intermarriage rates in the U.S., and, in 2010, more than a quarter of newlyweds in each group married someone of a different race or ethnicity, according to Pew. And even though the intermarriage rate for whites is relatively low, marriages between whites and minority groups are by far the most common. In 2010, 70 percent of new intermarriages involved a white spouse, Pew’s report found.

The report digs deep into characteristics of these couples and unearths some interesting, if not all together unsurprising, patterns.

The interracial couplings with the most education are those between Asians and whites. That combination also earns the most money, with couples consisting of Asian men and white women coming out on top, just slightly above couples consisting of white men and Asian women. And Hispanics and blacks who married outside their group are more likely to have college degrees.

Pew’s survey of American attitudes toward this growing trend of intermarriage found that 43 percent of Americans view it as a good change for society, while around 11 percent say it’s bad. The rest say it doesn’t make a difference.

Of course, there are important issues for schools to consider because with more intermarried couples will come more students who are biracial or multiethnic. It could certainly present challenges on the data collection side of things for schools that must demonstrate that students of all races and ethnicities are reaching certain academic targets.

If a student has an Asian mother and a black father, do his scores get counted among those of Asian students or African-American students?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.

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