Marrying Outside Your Group: Romeo and Juliet

For an institution about joining two people together, marriage puts a pretty big spotlight on the differences between the husband and wife. Are you getting married in a temple, a church or a courtroom? When you look at the bride and groom’s sides, can you tell where you are supposed to sit as soon as you walk in the door? And once kids get thrown into the mix, the tug of war really starts.

Marriage has evolved a lot in the past 50 years. In 2010, 15% of new marriages in the U.S. were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another, up from 6.7% in 1980, according to a Pew study. There were about 4.5 million interracial marriages total. Interracial marriages are 13% more likely to end in divorce, although that number has been going down, and the number greatly depends on which races are getting married. For example, an Asian husband and white wife are 60% more likely to get divorced as a white/white marriage. At the same time, a white husband and black wife marriage is 50% less likely to end in divorce than white/white couples.

Additionally, 25% of U.S. households in 2006 were mixed faith, up from 15% in 1988. Unfortunately, according to calculations based on the American Religious Identification Survey of 2001, mixed religion marriages were three times more likely to be divorced or separated than same-religion marriages.

A large contributor to higher divorce rates when marrying outside of your “group” are due in part to lack of communal support for the marriage. The in-laws are a prime example of this. A 2001 study found that around two thirds of interracial marriages reported having at least one parent object to the union. Interference from one or both sets of in-laws cause divorce in 6% of marriages. When the parents are not supportive of a marriage, it drives a wedge into even the most loving couple.

The community is as a whole, however, becoming more accepting of mixed marriages. In 2010, 43% of Americans said that the trend of more people of different races marrying each other has been a change for the better in our society. Additionally, 63% of Americans said that they “would be fine” with a family member marrying someone outside their own racial or ethnic group. Less than 25% of 18-23 year old respondents to the National Study of Youth and Religion think it’s important to marry someone of the same faith. Generally, younger generations seem more accepting of differences in marriage, but then again, most of them are not yet married themselves.

Additional Resources

Pew The Rise of Intermarriage:

NBC News Leap of Faith: Marrying Outside Your Religion:

Gorigirl Interracial Divorce in the U.S.:

CBS News Interracial Marriage Rising but Not as Fast:

The Washington Post Interfaith Marriages are Rising Fast, but They’re Failing Fast Too:

Interracial Couples: The Impact of Race and Gender on One’s Experience of Discrimination Based on the Race of the Partner:

Typical Divorce Statistics:

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