Volume 49 - Article 28 | Pages 737–768  

Black–white intermarriage in global perspective

By Edward Telles, Albert Esteve, Andres Castro


Background: Intermarriage is a leading indicator of racialized relations. Scholarly literature has focused on the United States and shows that black–white intermarriage is especially low within that country. Surprisingly, there are no studies that compare black–white intermarriage across a broad range of countries around the world.

Objective: How does black–white intermarriage compare in Brazil, Cuba, France, South Africa, the United States, and the United Kingdom circa 2010?

Methods: We use odds ratios of endogamy and log-linear analysis of large micro-level datasets for each country.

Results: Interracial marriage varies widely across countries. Despite increases in recent decades, US black–white intermarriage levels are the second lowest among the six countries, although they are markedly higher among cohabitors. Intermarriage rates (opposite of endogamy) are high in the Latin American countries, moderate in the European countries, low-moderate in the United States and extremely low in South Africa. Controls for structural factors have minor effects, suggesting that national differences are mostly related to cultural factors.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that national differences are primarily from differences in racial attitudes and tolerance toward intermarriage, specifically the willingness of blacks and whites to cross racial boundaries in marriage. We also find that although the effects of historical laws prohibiting racial intermarriage have waned, they continue to account for especially strong taboos against intermarriage in the United States and especially South Africa.

Contribution: This is the first systematic comparison of black–white marriage across a broad set of countries around the world. We find that countries differ widely in the extent of black–white intermarriage.

Author's Affiliation

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