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Interracial marriages continue steady increase, according to Pew study

Published: Thursday, Feb. 16 2012 12:01 a.m. MST

Married for 7 months, Hai Nguyen, 37 and her husband Jon Pope, 37, sit outside their home in Houston, Tuesday, May 25, 2010.

Michael Stravato, Associated Press

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A Pew Research Center study released Thursday morning showed interracial marriage is increasingly common in America, with 15 percent of all new marriages performed in 2010 involvng people of different races, up from 6.7 percent in 1980.

Interracial marriages now comprise 8.4 percent of all current American marriages, up from 3 percent in 1980.

The number of interracial marriages in Utah is close to the national average, making up 14.5 percent of new marriages in the state from 2008 to 2010.

The Pew study found that new interracial marriages are most common in the western United States. About 22 percent of newlyweds in western states from 2008 to 2010 married someone of a different race or ethnicity. The rate was 14 percent in the South, 13 percent in the Northeast and 11 percent in the Midwest.

The study used the U.S. Census to measure education, median income, approval rates and marriages by region of interracially married couples.

Acceptance is climbing as fast as the number of interracial marriages. Nearly two-thirds of Americans, or 63 percent, said they "would be fine" with a family member marrying someone outside their own racial or ethnic group. In 1986, Pew noted in a press release, "a third of the public viewed intermarriage as acceptable for everyone."

About 44 percent of Americans said an increased number of people marrying other races is good, 11 percent said it was bad and 43 percent said the increased numbers make no difference.

The overall acceptance of interracial marriage is significant, said E. Jeffrey Hill, associate professor of family life at Brigham Young University, especially because 50 years ago people were not accepting of interracial marriage.

Hill cited the recent focus on the court case Loving v. Virginia and a just-released HBO documentary film about the case titled "The Loving Story" as reasons for the increased approval.

“Across the board there’s more acceptance of diversity,” he said.

Hill also found it significant the Pew Research Center survey showed that although interracial approval ratings are high, most people — 85 percent — still marry within their race. The analysis did not study divorce rates but the report referred to past studies that found higher rates of divorce among interracially married couples. The results vary between different races.

Hill said similarities in general are indicative of greater success in marriage, but those similarities do not necessarily need to come from race. Whether religion, education level, race or some other factor, the specific commonality does not seem to matter as much.

“Differences attract, but similarities keep you together,” Hill said.

Kahalia Montgomery agrees similarities are important in a marriage. She is black and her husband is white, and while they have differences, race is not one that causes conflict in their marriage. They are both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, living in Philadephia, and the main difference for them comes from where they were each raised, she in the South and her husband in Utah.

“If there is ever anything about race, it’s coming from the outside,” Montgomery said.

The Montgomerys said they usually experience indifferent or negative reactions from strangers. Even before people know either of them well, her husband will generally be seen in a positive light to outsiders while she is seen in a negative light by those of her own race.

“He gets extra cool and I get minus cool,” Montgomery said, laughing. “I give him cred and he takes my cred away.”

EMAIL: wevans@desnews.com

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