The Black Commentator: An independent weekly internet magazine dedicated to the movement for economic justice, social justice and peace - Providing commentary, analysis and investigations on issues affecting African Americans and the African world.
Mar 31, 2011 - Issue 420

Racial Mixing Greatly Exaggerated
RACE-Y Topics
By Dr. Algernon Austin, PhD Columnist



While it is true that growing numbers of Americans identify as being of more than one race, we are still an overwhelming mono-racial population. And we will be majority mono-racial for quite a while. In 2009, only 2.5 percent of the population identified as being “two or more races.

Recently, the New York Times reported that “nearly 9 percent of all marriages in the United States . . . were interracial or interethnic.” This amount is more than double the percentage in 1980. It is a growing percentage, but still a small one.

When one examines the interethnic marriages between Hispanics and non-Hispanics carefully as I do below, these marriages seem much less like Americans moving to a new frontier and more like Americans retreading the same ground that we have for centuries.

In 2009, the vast majority of whites married whites. The vast majority of blacks married blacks. The majority of Asians, married Asians.

Hispanics also mainly marry other Hispanics. Further, many of the marriages where Hispanics marry a non-Hispanic are, in fact, marriages between people of the same race.

Before we go into the data published by the New York Times, we need to be aware of certain facts about Hispanic classification. The Census Bureau convention is that being Hispanic is an ethnicity, not a race. Hispanics can be of any race. One can be white and Hispanic, black and Hispanic, Asian and Hispanic, and American Indian and Hispanic.

About 60 percent of Hispanics identify racially as white. About 30 percent apparently reject the Census Bureau conventions and say that their race is “Other.” However, the Times data does not present information about the “Others.” Only about 2 percent of Hispanics identify as black.

The data for men and women are quite similar. For brevity, I will only discuss the race of the women Hispanic men married. In 2009, only 18 percent of white Hispanic men did not marry a white Hispanic woman. But 17 percent of them married a white non-Hispanic woman. Only 1 percent of white Hispanic men married someone who was not white. Thus, the interethnic marriages of white Hispanics are almost entirely of whites marrying other whites.

Black Hispanic men had more interracial marriages, but still half of them married another black Hispanic. Twenty-two percent of black Hispanics married black non-Hispanics. Nearly three quarters of black Hispanic men married black women, Hispanic and non-Hispanic. Therefore, these interethnic marriages, too, are mainly of black people marrying other black people. 

Interracial marriage is increasing. But this does not change the fact that Americans overwhelmingly marry people of the same race. The interethnic Hispanic marriages that some take as evidence of old boundaries breaking down are mainly marriages of whites marrying whites and blacks marrying blacks. This marriage pattern is a very old one in America. Guest Commentator, Dr. Algernon Austin, PhD, is the Director of the Race, Ethnicity and the Economy Program at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he is the author of Getting It Wrong: How Black Public Intellectuals Are Failing Black America and Achieving Blackness: Race, Black Nationalism, and Afrocentrism in the Twentieth Century, as well as scholarly articles in Ethnic and Racial Studies, Qualitative Sociology, the Journal of African American Studies, and Race, Gender and Class. He blogs at and The Huffington Post. Click here to contact Dr. Austin.