Number 1 reason for gender pattern in intercultural and interethnic marriage – who is marrying whom?

in Intercultural dating, Intercultural Marriage


Stuart, Florida -- June 14, 2008

One of the key findings of the Social and Demographic Trend Report released by the Pew Research Center on June 4, 2010 is the gender patterns in intermarriage.

Gender patterns in intermarriage vary widely. Some 22% of all black male newlyweds in 2008 married outside their race, compared with just 9% of black female newlyweds. Among Asians, the gender pattern runs the other way. Some 40% of Asian female newlyweds married outside their race in 2008, compared with just 20% of Asian male newlyweds. Among whites and Hispanics, by contrast, there are no gender differences in intermarriage rates.

The question of what determinants identify intermarriage and what forces cause the contrasting gender differences in intermarriage among ethnicity baffled researches for a while. Remarkably, five months before the release of the Pew Research Center report, a research paper titled “Applied Microeconomics” was released through the initiative of Ludwig-Maximilians University’s Center for Economic Studies and the Ifo Institute for Economic Research investigating this issue.

The paper identifies some theories and facts that were earlier used to explain this trend and provided counter-arguments to those explanations.

  • Social exchange theory – Merton 1941predicts that men and women from ethnic minorities whointermarry should have better socioeconomic characteristics than those who marry within their own ethnicity.

East-Asian men were also possessing higher endowments of education and/or skills than East-Asian women but they are less likely than East-Asian women to intermarry with Whites.

  • Education – Black men were in a better position to do, being more likely to be employed and possessing higher endowments of education and/or skills. Women, on the other hand, used to be mostly out of the labor force (at least at the time Merton formulated his theory).

Current data show that Black men who intermarry tend to be less educated than those who intramarry and Black women are generally more educated than Black men yet is it the Black men who are more
likely to intermarry with Whites.

See: Black women dating crisis

South and East-Asians, and especially the Chinese that are in interethnic marriage are very likely to be well-educated.

Black Caribeans and Black Africans in interethnic marriage are less likely to be educated than their counterparts who marry their own. (as to date)

Women of most interethnic groups, other than Black Africans, with education have a higher number of inter-ethnic marriages.

  • Age – Black Caribeans and Black Africansthat are in interethnic marriage tend to be younger thantheir counterparts who intramarriage.

Chinese men and women, and other Asian women, who are in interethnic marriage, appear older
than their counterparts in intraethnic marriage.

Based from the above arguments and through the statistical treatments that the research used, the determiners – socioeconomic status, education and age – turned out to be not significant in explaining the
varying gender pattern among ethnicity in intermarriage.

Therefore the new question is – What is that norm that’s guiding marriage choices in the international marriage market?

The answer is – Height

Here are some reasons why height makes the best determinant:

  • Fisman et. al. (2006) – both men and womenprefer the man to be taller than the woman.
  • Higgins et. al (2002) – Chinese and UKstudents prefer their husbands to be taller than thewife.
  • Buunk et. al. (2002) – taller men and womenof intermediate height tend to be the best height in themarriage market. They are seen as more attractive by theopposite gender and arouse more jealousy among their owngender. Women’s preference for taller partner can beattributed to the desire to find a spouse with better earning income. Men’s preference for taller partners (intermediate height) is more likely driven by the future spouse’s health and her child bearing potential.
  • Deaton and Arona (2009) – with increasingheight, individuals experience greater lifesatisfaction, enjoyment and happiness and report feelingless pain, sadness, worry, stress or anger.
  • While taller men are predicted to have alarger share of suitable partners, taller women face alower share of suitable partners. Women of intermediateheight are seen by men as more attractive than theirtaller women counterparts.

Height is associated with similar socioeconomic benefits and psychological benefits for both genders.

We investigate the determinants of ethnic-specific gender asymmetries in intermarriage rates. Both in the UK and in the US, we observe a larger propensity to intermarry with Whites among Black men
than among Black women, while the reverse is true for Asians, in particular the Chinese. We show that this
pattern cannot be explained by socioeconomic attributes such as education or occupation. Using data from the Labour Force Survey for the period 2002- 2007, we show that intermarriage occurs mainly among more educated people, except for Black men marrying White women and White men marrying Black Caribbean women. These results suggest there are other factors besides socioeconomic characteristics that affect the relative success of the various ethnic groups in the White marriage market.(Michéle Belot and Jan Fidrmuc)

Conclusion: The larger the share of suitable White partners and the lower the share of suitable partner within one own’s ethnicity, the higher the probability of out-marrying. The height is the important determinant of the probability of intermarrying. Asian men who intermarry tend to be taller than those who do not. Most interethnic relationships occur with respect to height (requiring the husband to be taller than the wife).

Application: Black people are taller than Asians and are of similar heights with Whites. This rule implies that black males should fare better in the white marriage market than East and South Asian men. This is opposite for Black and Asian women where it is claimed that taller women are seen as less attractive than women of intermediate height.

Note: This study focuses on the white marriage market because minority-minority marriages are rare. The researchers also acknowledge that the height, regardless of its ability to explain the gender pattern of interethnic marriage, cannot predict other situations such as the case of South Asian women that are less likely to outmarry than South Asian men. They leave this unexplained part of the puzzle to further research.

photo by Ray

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Very few white women date or marry outside their race although they do have a choice..other races of men compete for them with white men…they just get turned down. Very few black women date or marry outside their race…nothing to do with choice…they simply do not get too many offers for date or marriage proposals.


Hello George! What do you think are the reasons why only few white women marry outside their race? Can “height” be a factor of this trend?

Regarding with black women don;t get too many offers, one author in her book date a white guy argued that the small number of black women in interracial marriage can be accounted to their behavior towards it and that they can do something to improve their chance.

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