Friday, June 4, 2010

The Pot is Melting Faster

Few metaphors of immigration are as powerful as the proverbial "melting pot," which likens America to a cauldron that melts different races and ethnicities into one united American soup. The metaphor has often been criticized as being inaccurate, given the stubborn persistence of ethnic and racial identity and inequality.

One way of testing the melting pot hypothesis is to look at intermarriage patterns over time. Clearly, an ethnic group that is increasingly marrying outside the group conforms to the hypothesis. A Pew Research Center study released yesterday sheds some light on recent experience. You can click here for a the results of the study.

One interesting finding: Hispanics have a very high rate of inter-ethnic marriage--one in four--surpassed only by Asians--almost one in three--but the pace of inter-ethnic marriage has not changed since 1980 for either group. On the other hand, the pace of inter-ethnic or inter-racial marriage for all newlyweds has doubled since 1980, from 6.7% in 1980 to 14.6% in 2008. This suggests that other groups are beginning to melt more quickly into the soup but still have a ways to go to catch up to the melting rate of Asians and Hispanics.

Another interesting finding: among Hispanics, both men and women are equally likely to find a non-Hispanic partner (25.5 for men, 25.2 for women). Asian women, however, are much more likely to find a non-Asian partner than Asian men (39.5% for women, 19.5 for men).

New Mexico: Hispanics are very slightly less likely to marry a non-Hispanic than in the rest of the U.S. (22% vs. 25.6% of newlyweds in 2008), but White, non-Hispanics are much more likely to marry outside their own group than their counterparts in the rest of the country (20% in New Mexico compared to 8.9% of newlyweds in 2008).

Question: Does this mean that Anglos in New Mexico are unmelting? Or are they helping the unmelted to melt?

Consistent with other studies, it turns out the likelihood of marrying outside one's own group increases dramatically with more education. So education speeds up the rate of melt. Is there a lesson here?


KarenN said...

Interesting. Especially interesting, but not surprising, that education is such a significant factor. As for your question about Anglos, perhaps Anglos in NM have had more opportunity to become familiar and comfortable with Hispanic culture rather than a question of melting or unmelting. Maybe what needs to melt in all of us is our hearts.

Two questions for you, Dr. Garcia. I'm wondering if you think there is deeper meaning in these numbers and what that might be? And, I'm wondering why you mention the statistics for Asians and not blacks? According to this study, "blacks who live in the West are three times as likely to out-marry as are blacks who live in the South and twice as likely as blacks in the Northeast or Midwest".

Karen Nichols

Jose Z. Garcia said...

Good questions. Blacks: what is extraordinary is that the out-marriage is up to 15.5% of newlyweds, up a lot in the past two decades, perhaps the first major sign of eventual narrowing of gaps, since black-white income gaps have not closed at all in 40 years. Significantly, it it black men who opt out (22%), more than black women (8.9%), suggesting non-black women may be more willing to "risk" marrying a black person than non-black men; this could also have to do with income levels, with wealthy black men more aggressive about courting white mates than their female counterparts.

Otherwise, I think the data indicate that Hispanics and Asians, just like all other immigrant groups, want ultimately to assimilate--something Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington explicitly denied about Hispanics in a book he wrote about three years ago. This data suggests he was just wrong.