Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Intermarriage" on the rise in US

For people from South Korea or who have lived in South Korea for a long time, the sea change in attitudes toward so-called "international marriage (kukche kyŏlhon, 국제결혼) is absolutely striking. Although President Syngman Rhee's wife was a Caucasian woman from Austria and one of the royals was involved with a Caucasian woman from the United States, what would be called interracial marriage in North America was, for a long time, seen as a curiosity and often frowned on as something only low-class women would do (a vestige of the hard times encountered by many women during and after the Korean War).

Nevertheless, changing attitudes and shifting demographics have led to the situation we have in South Korea today, where one in three marriages in rural areas and one in eight marriages across the country are between a Korean and a non-Korean. (Those same changing attitudes have also led to a far higher divorce rate between Koreans, but that's another story for another time.)

In fact, it seemed exogamy (the sociological term for marrying outside one's group) was, for a while, more common in South Korea than in the United States. But a recent Pew Research Study report that utilizes 2010 Census Bureau data indicates that intermarriage is far more accepted and far more common than before. And this is especially true for Asian Americans and Hispanics.

Some highlights:
About 15% of all new marriages in the United States in 2010 were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another, more than double the share in 1980 (6.7%). Among all newlyweds in 2010, 9% of whites, 17% of blacks, 26% of Hispanics and 28% of Asians married out. Looking at all married couples in 2010, regardless of when they married, the share of intermarriages reached an all-time high of 8.4%. In 1980, that share was just 3.2%.
As one might expect, this is not evenly applied across genders:
About 24% of all black male newlyweds in 2010 married outside their race, compared with just 9% of black female newlyweds. Among Asians, the gender pattern runs the other way. About 36% of Asian female newlyweds married outside their race in 2010, compared with just 17% of Asian male newlyweds. Intermarriage rates among white and Hispanic newlyweds do not vary by gender.
I've always thought Asian American men who were having trouble finding that special someone ought to look to Black women, and this sort of backs me up.

In many ways, intermarriage between Asians and Whites represents a more educated and higher-earning group:
Some of these differences appear to reflect the overall characteristics of different groups in society at large, and some may be a result of a selection process. For example, white/Asian newlyweds of 2008 through 2010 have significantly higher median combined annual earnings ($70,952) than do any other pairing, including both white/white ($60,000) and Asian/Asian ($62,000). When it comes to educational characteristics, more than half of white newlyweds who marry Asians have a college degree, compared with roughly a third of white newlyweds who married whites. Among Hispanics and blacks, newlyweds who married whites tend to have higher educational attainment than do those who married within their own racial or ethnic group.

Couples formed between an Asian husband and a white wife topped the median earning list among all newlyweds in 2008-2010 ($71,800).
Revenge of the stereotypical Asian nerds, I guess.

The study also notes that rates vary by region: it's significantly lower in the Midwest and the South than in the West, while Hawaii tops everyone (42% of all marriages). And while those who think intermarriage is a positive for society is about equal to those who think it has no effect, there's still a lingering one in nine who think that it is a negative.

When comparing this to Korea, one might note that much of Korea's "out-marriage" is not in fact "interracial," since it largely involves Koreans marrying ethnic Chinese, Vietnamese, and Filipino/as. Nevertheless, from a social standpoint, it is interethnic exogamy and remains a relevant issue.

The Pew report is getting people's attention, especially since this wide acceptance of something that was once taboo seems a parallel to the issue of same-sex marriage. From the Los Angeles Times:
A quarter-century ago, 65% of Americans thought interracial marriage was unacceptable for themselves or for other people. Yet in the span of a generation, as intermarriage has become more common and the United States has grown more racially diverse, a dramatic change in attitudes has taken place. Today, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 87% of Americans say that the rise in interracial marriage has either been good for society or made no difference, while only 11% think it's a change for the worse.

That's the thing about the tide of history: It tends to flow from intolerance to acceptance. The same shift that occurred in opinions about interracial marriage is happening in attitudes about same-sex marriage. Just ask folks in Washington and New Jersey.
I do think there's merit to that argument, just as there was in the comparison of racial integration of the armed forces with ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Still, there are people whose opposition to gay marriage stems from religious convictions, something that didn't generally hold true (I think) for opponents of interracial marriage.

I'm not sure if those people will ever change their minds, but for them, I have two things for them to ruminate. First, gay people have always been able to marry; it's just that with same-sex marriage, they'll finally be able to marry each other. And second, if you really don't like gay people having gay sex, then by all means you should support gay marriage.

UPDATE:
The Economist has a short article on this, but its main emphasis is on the earning power of White-Asian intermarriage couples.

UPDATE 2:
Apparently Black women with Asian men is becoming a thing.

... Sphere: Related Content

6 comments:

  1. First, gay people have always been able to marry; it's just that with same-sex marriage, they'll finally be able to marry each other. And second, if you really don't like gay people having gay sex, then by all means you should support gay marriage.

    That is the most ridiculous thing you have said on this blog. Of course, gay people have been able to marry the opposite sex. The whole opposition toward gay marriage is due to the fact that it legitimizes homosexuality as a socially accepted practice. That's why some are in favor of civil unions, but not gay marriage. As if marriage was the great sex killer.

    Nevertheless, changing attitudes and shifting demographics have led to the situation we have in South Korea today, where one in three marriages in rural areas and one in eight marriages across the country are between a Korean and a non-Korean. (Those same changing attitudes have also led to a far higher divorce rate between Koreans, but that's another story for another time.)

    I don't think you can attribute the increased rate of divorce to the exact same factors that are driving international marriage. The increasing rate of divorce is due to greater opportunities for women and the greater social acceptability of divorce. In the past, many women chose to stay in bad marriages due to lack of resources/opportunities as well as the harsh social stigma of being a divorcee. But the increase in international marriages is due to the greater economic opportunities for Korean women, so I guess that is one common factor driving both situations. Korean women don't want to marry farmers. They would rather stay single than marry an unsuitable partner.

    But one cannot blame society for this situation. One must adapt to the times. Those farmers are relics of the olden days. They have chosen to stick to the old, patriarchal ways, so instead of adapting, they have chosen to take foreign wives. Of course, it doesn't help that they have waited until they are in their late forties or fifties. So by that time, their options are limited to Korean divorcees, widows, or the rare single woman of their age. But they want to marry young women to have children, so their options are limited to foreign women because young Korean women and their families would not even consider these men.

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    1. itissaid wrote:
      That is the most ridiculous thing you have said on this blog. Of course, gay people have been able to marry the opposite sex. The whole opposition toward gay marriage is due to the fact that it legitimizes homosexuality as a socially accepted practice. That's why some are in favor of civil unions, but not gay marriage. As if marriage was the great sex killer.

      itissaid, I think lately you've been having trouble picking up on my sarcasm and facetiousness.

      After being convinced some years ago of the fundamental unfairness of civil unions over legal marriage, I have been an avid supporter of same-sex marriage. My comment about gays being able to marry each other was a tongue-in-cheek commentary on how, in the bad old days, homosexuals felt compared to marry in order to hide (or even bury) their feelings and desires.

      As for the second part of that, it's just a new riff on an old joke about marital monogamy leading to zerogamy. In fact, I'm not married and never have been, so I really don't know if marriage is a "sex killer," but I do know people make such jokes.

      And I assure you, I've said far more ridiculous things on this blog. :)

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    2. itissaid wrote:
      I don't think you can attribute the increased rate of divorce to the exact same factors that are driving international marriage. The increasing rate of divorce is due to greater opportunities for women and the greater social acceptability of divorce.

      I do not disagree with anything you just wrote. Greater opportunities for women, as well as greater responsibilities for women, are major drivers of the divorce rate. However, that second element is also necessary: the erosion of disapproval and stigma (concomitant with greater social acceptability).

      And those things have come about partly because of changing attitudes (away from "traditional" notions of marriage and who decides who a person gets married to and why) and changing demographics.

      In the past, many women chose to stay in bad marriages due to lack of resources/opportunities as well as the harsh social stigma of being a divorcee. But the increase in international marriages is due to the greater economic opportunities for Korean women, so I guess that is one common factor driving both situations. Korean women don't want to marry farmers. They would rather stay single than marry an unsuitable partner.

      No disagreement.

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  2. itissaid wrote:
    But one cannot blame society for this situation. One must adapt to the times. Those farmers are relics of the olden days. They have chosen to stick to the old, patriarchal ways, so instead of adapting, they have chosen to take foreign wives.

    Well, I'm not going to make a sweeping indictment of them. There are nice guys, too, that would not be able to get a good wife simply because of their profession and the tough work (and unreliable income) that it entails.

    Of course, it doesn't help that they have waited until they are in their late forties or fifties. So by that time, their options are limited to Korean divorcees, widows, or the rare single woman of their age. But they want to marry young women to have children, so their options are limited to foreign women because young Korean women and their families would not even consider these men.

    I can't really blame them for waiting (often this was not by their own choice but due to a lack of resources, time for finding someone, and/or availability of women nearby).

    Nor can I blame them for wanting someone who is likely to bear children. I'm a Gen-Xer, and when I get married, I would hope to have someone who is (a) willing to have children and (b) able to have children. Of course, depending on the circumstances, I might be willing to go a different route, but ideally, there are a handful of reasons to get married (e.g., love, companionship, stability, and having children) and the last one is a big one.

    I can't blame farmers and other folks in rural areas for wanting them same thing. Now, is their tendency to seek foreign-born women a cause or a symptom of the demographic issue? There simply is a lack of marrying-age women, through no direct fault of those farmers, so should they be forced to live as Garrison Keillor-esque Norwegian bachelor farmers for the rest of their lives?

    Arranged marriage is millennia-old, and this is just a new twist on it. Husbands and wives, in that context, are resources as well as people who can develop 정 and romantic attachment, and this can be seen merely as a shifting around of resources to connect people who both want something. If you read up on this, even skeptical scholars will recognize that many of the women from China, the Philippines, and Vietnam end up being a boon to their family back home when they marry even poor farmers in Korea (or Japan) because of remittances. The KRW is powerful in that regard, and 100K won per month goes a very long way.

    It's not for me, but neither is the centuries of arranged marriages up until sometime in the last century that led to my grandparents and their forebears being born. What needs to be worked on is making sure those women are treated fairly and have adequate resources for a happy and healthy life.

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    1. I agree that some of the farmers are nice guys, but they did have a choice. It's not like the husband ideal was sprung up on them. They grew up in Korean society. Surely, they would have noticed the decline in marriage partners for farmers. And surely, they would have to question why they had difficulty in their thirties looking for a wife. It is strongly ingrained in Korean society that one gets married before a certain age. It's more relaxed for men, but generally before 35. I'm not saying that they should have gone to college necessarily. One does not need to do that to get married. There are many blue collar men in Korea who have found Korean wives. Why would a Korean woman marry a vending machine owner rather than a farmer? Because farmers expect their wives to help out and do back breaking farm labor. Not a very inviting proposition for a young Korean woman.

      Anyhow, if marriage was a priority for them, they should have made the time to look for wives even if it meant spending less time on the farm. I think marriage is worth that much commitment.

      Anyhow, I don't blame anyone for wanting kids and a family and I wasn't. But one must also consider whether they are the right person to have a family. And mail order marriages are not really a good foundation to build a family on, especially in Korea. You have farmers who can barely support themselves marrying foreign women who can barely speak Korean. How will they navigate the formidable Korean education system and groom their children for success in Korean society?

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    2. Marriage should not be a financial transaction.

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