Asking Why Asian Women Marry Outside Their Race Is the Wrong Question

images (1)Interracial marriage in America is at an all time high, according to the latest census data from 2012, one out of every twelve marriages in America these days is between people of different races. Leading the way are Asians and Hispanics where nearly 25% of each group marries outside of their race. However, when it comes to Asians, marrying outside of the race is very much a woman thing. About 36% of Asian women in American do it, which is twice as high as the number of Asian men who do. In a nearly opposite ratio, black men are more than twice as likely to marry outside of their race as black women: 24% to 9%.

In both the black and Asian community, it is not hard to find concern about how lopsided these numbers are. That’s because marriage is, in some regards, a zero sum game if viewed through the lens of racial grouping. If men and women of one racial group or another don’t marry outside their race in nearly identical numbers like whites and Hispanics do, a lot of people are left with no one to marry. The stats bare this out as Asian men and black women are the most likely to be unmarried of any group in America.

So what explains the disproportionate numbers of black men and Asian women marrying outside of their race? While it’s easy to find some hateful, bitter, angry sexist and racists speculations about this, some of the more legitimate speculation relates to how emasculating stereotypes of Asian men in America have resulted in them being seen as less desirable partners. This is contrasted by stereotypes of submissive, docile Asian women which makes them more attractive to some men. Black women, on the other hand, fall outside of what American media and society deems attractive, while black men have been portrayed as being almost super masculine; I would argue intimidatingly masculine.

I certainly think these are some very important and worth while discussions to have. I also think they very likely play a role in the statistics at hand. However, I can not escape the fact that if we are truly working towards being a colorblind society, which is supported by the fact that 83% of people not only say they are OK with interracial relationships, but are actually open to being in one, why are so many marriages and relationships, even among millennials, still between people of the same race.

Perhaps this is self serving on my part as a black man who has had a lot of relationships out side of my “race,” but statistically speaking, shouldn’t I? Blacks are only 13% of the US population. In my mind, all things being equal, shouldn’t that mean that only about one out of every nine or ten of my relationships actually be with another black person? Even more to the point, Asians are only about 4% of the population. So how the hell are so many still able to stay within in their racial group given how small it is?

Now before anyone goes claiming racial and cultural differences, OKCupid, which used to do some amazing statistical breakdowns of it’s users, has shown that across all races, all of it’s users have statistically insignificant differences in their level of compatibility based on the questions people answer and information they provide.

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While this is very encouraging in terms of showing that our racial and cultural differences aren’t as dramatic or as significant as people like to make them out to be. However, it’s also equally discouraging since it means that our own perceptions of racial and cultural differences are keeping us apart. But  it could also mean that we’re still so segregated as a society that people of different races just aren’t meeting each other in real life.

That there is still a lot of segregation in our society and that different racial and cultural groups clustered together in different parts of cities and the country is a reality. However, Internet dating allows for that to be easily overcome as single people of all races and from all parts of the same city or region are all on the same site and all expressing interest in meeting someone to have a romantic relationship with. So what does the data show when it comes to online dating? It shows that some of the exact same patterns play out online as they do in real life. Black women are by far the least likely to get replies to messages they send, even from black men. And, like every other statistic in the world, it shows it’s good to be white and it’s especially good to be a white man. They are the least likely to reply because they are the most likely to get messages and can, therefore, be the most picky.

OkCupid-Chart3-blogSpan

(click chart to enlarge)

Still, my point to all of this is that if we claim our goal as a society is to be color blind then questions about why one group or another is dating outside of their race isn’t a relevant one because that’s actually the goal, right? A better question is – given the demographics of our country – why aren’t more people marrying outside of their race? The answer is because we’re still not as colorblind as we claim, and sadly, when it comes to the very important issue of people getting married and starting a family, black women and Asian men are taking the brunt of it because something about our society’s racism – and I’m using the collective OUR here – is affecting the way they are seen even by people of their own race. This just illustrates how insidious racism really is. So, to bring this all back to the title of the article, the way we view interracial marriage, given our demographics as a nation, requires a paradigm shift in our thinking about it. No longer can the question be why people are dating outside of their race, the question should be why so many seemingly can’t or won’t.

SideBar: Here are links to the statistics I drew from in writing this article:

Freakonomics – Race & Romance

Huffington Post – Interracial Marriage in the US at an All Time High

Clutch Magazine – Study: Interracial Marriages at All Time High and It’s Not Just Black & White

Pew Research – The Rise of Intermarriage

Author: Brian M. Williams

Brian is the author of the recently published travel memoir "Stranger in a Stranger Land: My Six Years in Korea." (Click this profile for more information.) He's also a law school grad with Southern charm and Virginia roots. He recently returned to America after nearly seven years traveling and working abroad. He loves dive bars, international travel and foreign accents. He's particularly good at small talk and was the first person to notice there's no "I" in "team."

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2 Comments

  1. I’m not going to disagree entirely with you, sexual preference is definitely the most racist domain. You can tell this by looking at any porn site. That said, african american women are among most obese group on the planet and asian women are thinner and younger looking than the average american woman. Evolutionary sexual preference explains most of the trends you mention.

    That said, new immigrants and certain geographies in the US definitely have certain cultural preferences. But if you look at the % of interracial dating and children in the US, you could argue the country i the least racist country on the planet. The mestizos and latin america could have a strong argument as well though.

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    • An “Evolutionary sexual preference” is not a thing. Our preferences are made by the media in the West. 150 years ago being overweight and pale was the look upper class women wanted. Our preferences are, too a good extent, man made. And that has more than a little to do with why they fall along racial lines.

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