Interracial Marriages: Historical and Contemporary Trends



Following the striking down of anti-miscegenation laws in 1967, interracial marriage has become more prevalent. This chapter begins with the story of Mildred and Richard Loving of Virginia. Their story is a pivotal component of American history. History is addressed because it provides the sociopolitical context in which interracial relationships are embedded. Thus, in this chapter the history of, and attitudes regarding, interracial marriages is discussed, in addition to current trends. A few key Supreme Court cases are highlighted. Although the focus is primarily on the United States, interracial unions in Britain and Canada are also addressed in an effort to compare the United States to other areas. In doing so, race relations are underscored. Relationship quality and stability of interracial couples in comparison to same-race couples are also explored. Theory helps guide the manner in which we frame and even understand interracial unions. Understanding theory is just as critical as understanding historical background. The chapter ends with a discussion of future research and practice.


Interracial relationships Interracial marriage Discrimination Pocahontas exception Vulnerability-stress-adaptation model Interdependence theory Mildred and Richard Loving Racial Integrity Act Cohabitation Bioecological model Same-race couples 


  1. Afful, S. E., Wohlford, C., & Stoelting, S. M. (2015). Beyond “difference”: Examining the process and flexibility of racial identity in interracial marriages. Journal of Social Issues, 71(4), 659–674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Reading: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  3. Aschaffenburg, K., & Maas, I. (1997). Cultural and educational careers: The dynamics of social reproduction. American Sociological Review, 62, 573–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barnett, L. D. (1964). Anti-miscegenation laws. The Family Life Coordinator, 1394, 95–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bell, G. C., & Hastings, S. O. (2015). Exploring parental approval and disapproval for Black and White interracial couples. Journal of Social Issues, 71(4), 755–771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bertoni, A., & Bodenmann, G. (2010). Satisfied and dissatisfied couples: Positive and negative dimensions, conflict styles, and relationships with family of origin. European Psychologist, 15, 175–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bibby, R. (2007). Racial intermarriage: Canada and the U.S. Project Canada Press Release No. 9. Lethbridge, AB: University of Lethbridge.Google Scholar
  8. Blau, P. M., & Schwartz, J. E. (1984). Crosscutting social circles. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bramlett, M. D., & Mosher, W. D. (2002). Cohabitation, marriage, divorce, and remarriage in the United States. Vital Health Statistics, 23(22), 1–32.Google Scholar
  10. Bratter, J. L., & Eschbach, K. (2006). ‘What about the couple?’ Interracial marriage and psychological distress. Social Science Research, 35(4), 1025–1047.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bratter, J. L., & King, R. (2008). “But will it last?”: Marital instability among interracial and same-race couples. Family Relations, 57(2), 160–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1993). The ecology of cognitive development: Research models and fugitive findings. In R. H. Wozniak & K. W. Fischer (Eds.), Development in context: Acting and thinking in specific environments (pp. 3–44). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  14. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1995). Developmental ecology through space and time: A future perspective. In P. Moen & G. H. Elder Jr. (Eds.), Examining lives in context: Perspectives on the ecology of human development (pp. 619–647). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bronfenbrenner, U. (2005). Making human beings human: Bioecological perspectives on human development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  16. Bryant, C. M. (n.d.) Principal Investigator. A Study of African American Marriage and Health. Funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. R01-HD050045-05.Google Scholar
  17. Cheng, S. & Powell, B. (2007). Under and beyond constraints: Resource allocation to young children from biracial families. American Journal of Sociology, 112(4), 1044–1094.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chenk, S., & Klugman, J. (2010). School and racial composition and biracial adolescents’ school attachment. Sociological Quarterly, 51, 150–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Clark, E. M., Harris, A. L., Hasan, M., Votaw, K. B., & Fernandez, P. (2015). Concluding thoughts: Interethnic marriage through the lens of interdependence theory. Journal of Social Issues, 71(4), 821–833.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Curtis, M. C. (February 13, 2012). Is “The Loving Story” over, even now? The Washington Post. Retrieved October 31, 2016, from
  21. Daily Mail. (May 8, 1959). The film that slipped past the faceless ones, p. 12.Google Scholar
  22. Daily Mirror (June 9, 1960). ‘There’s NO bar on love’, p. 10.Google Scholar
  23. Dainton, M. (2015). An interdependence approach to relationship maintenance in interracial marriage. Journal of Social Issues, 71(4), 772–787.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Emens, E. F. (2009). Intimate discrimination: The state’s role in the accidents of sex and love. Harvard Law Review, 122, 1308–1402.Google Scholar
  25. Emerson, M. O. (2006). People of the dream: Multiracial congregations in the United States. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Emerson, M. O., Kimbro, R. T., & Yancey, G. (2002). Contact theory extended: The effects of prior racial contact on current social ties. Social Science Quarterly, 83, 745–761.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Endo, M. (2014). “The word ‘mixed’ without the ‘Indian’ would be better”: Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act and the destruction of Indian race in the early twentieth century. Native South, 7, 92–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fu, V. K., & Wolfinger, N. H. (2011). Broken boundaries or broken marriages? Racial intermarriage and divorce in the United States. Social Science Quarterly, 92(4), 1096–1117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gaines Jr., S. O., Rios, D. I., Granrose, C. S., Bledsoe, K. L., Farris, K. R., Page Youn, M. S., et al. (1999). Romanticism and interpersonal resource exchange among African American/Anglo and other interracial couples. Journal of Black Psychology, 25, 461–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gaines, S. O., Clark, E. M., & Afful, S. E. (2015). Interethnic marriage in the United States: An introduction. Journal of Social Issues, 71(4), 647–658.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Glaser, J., Dixit, J., & Green, D. P. (2002). Studying hate crimes with the Internet: What makes racists advocate racial violence? Journal of Social Issues, 58, 177–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Golebiowska, E. A. (2007). The contours and etiology of Whites’ attitudes toward Black-White interracial marriage. Journal of Black Studies, 38, 268–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Herman, M. R., & Campbell, M. E. (2012). I wouldn’t, but you can: Attitudes toward interracial relationships. Social Science Research, 41, 343–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hohmann-Marriott, B. E., & Amato, P. (2008). Relationship quality in interethnic marriages and cohabitations. Social Forces, 87(2), 825–855.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hou, F., Wu, Z., Schimmele, C., & Myles, J. (2015). Cross-country variation in interracial marriage: A USA-Canada comparison of metropolitan areas. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 38(9), 1591–1609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hou, F., & Myles, J. (2013). Interracial marriage and status-caste exchange in Canada and the United States. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36(1), 75–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Humes, K. R., Jones, N. A., & Ramirez, R. (2011). Overview of race and Hispanic Origin: 2010. Washington, DC: United States Census Bureau.Google Scholar
  38. Jones, J. M. (1997). Prejudice and racism (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  39. Kalmijn, M., & Van Tubergen, F. (2010). A comparative perspective on intermarriage: Explaining differences among national-origin groups in the United States. Demography, 47(2), 459–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (1995). The longitudinal course of marital quality and stability: A review of theory, methods, and research. Psychological Bulletin, 118(1), 3–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Killian, K. D. (2001). Reconstituting racial histories and identities: The narratives of interracial couples. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 27(1), 27–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kim, J. Y. (2013). Postracialism: Race after exclusion. Lewis & Clark Law Review, 17, 1063–1139.Google Scholar
  43. Koppelman, A. M. (2001). Defending the sex discrimination argument for lesbian and gay rights: A reply to Edward Stein. UCLA Law Review 519. Northwestern University School of Law, Public Law and Legal Theory Series, No. 15-28. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from
  44. Lee, S. M., & Boyd, M. (2008). Marrying out: Comparing the marital and social integration of Asians in the US and Canada. Social Science Research, 37(1), 311–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. Loving v. Virginia. Retrieved November 8, 2016., from
  46. Lehmiller, J. J. (2009). Secret romantic relationships: Consequences for personal and relational wellbeing. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1452–1466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Leslie, L. A., & Letiecq, B. L. (2004). Marital quality of African American and white partners in interracial couples. Personal Relationships, 11(4), 559–574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Leslie, L. A., & Young, J. L. (2015). Interracial couples in therapy: Common themes and issues. Journal of Social Issues, 71(4), 788–803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lofquist, D., Lugaila, T., O’Connell, M., & Feliz, S. (April 2012). Households and families: 2010. 2010 Census Briefs. C2010BR-14. Retrieved November 8, 2016, from
  50. Livingston, G. & Brown, A. (2017). Pew Research Center, May, 2017, Intermarriage in the U.S. 50 Years After Loving v. Virginia.Google Scholar
  51. MacNeil, T. A., & Adamsons, K. (2014). A bioecological view of interracial/same-race conflict. International Journal of Conflict Management, 25(3), 243–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Maillard, K. N. (2009). Miscegenation: An American Leviathan. Human Rights, 36, 15.Google Scholar
  53. Manchester Guardian. (May 9, 1959). Spirit of Ealing Persists in “Sapphire”: “whodunnit” with topical slant, p. 5.Google Scholar
  54. Martin, D. (May 6, 2008). Mildred Loving, who battled ban on mixed-race marriage, dies at 68. The New York Times. Retrieved November 1, 2016, from
  55. McNamara, R. P., Tempenis, M., & Walton, B. (1999). Crossing the Line: Interracial Couples in the South. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.Google Scholar
  56. Moran, R. F. (2001). Interracial intimacy: The regulation of race & romance. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  57. Moran, R. F. (2004). Love with a proper stranger: What anti-miscegenation laws can tell us about the meaning of race, sex, and marriage. Hofstra Law Review, 32, 1663–1679.Google Scholar
  58. Myles, J., & Hou, F. (2004). Changing colours: Neighbourhood attainment and residential segregation among Toronto’s visible minorities. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 29(1), 29–58.Google Scholar
  59. Negy, C., & Snyder, D. K. (2000). Relationship satisfaction of Mexican American and non-Hispanic White American interethnic couples: Issues of acculturation and clinical intervention. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 26(3), 293–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. O’Toole, L., Hayes, N., & Mhathuna, M. M. (2014). A bio-ecological perspective on educational transitions. Social and Behavioral Sciences, 140, 121–127.Google Scholar
  61. Parker, K., Morin, R., Horowitz, J. M., Lopez, M. H., & Rohal, M. (2015). Multiracial in America: Proud, diverse, and growing in numbers. Report. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.Google Scholar
  62. Perry, S. L. (2013). Racial composition of social settings, interracial friendship, and whites’ attitudes toward interracial marriage. The Social Science Journal, 50, 13–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Pew Research Center. (2010, February 1). Almost all millennials accept interracial dating and marriage. Retrieved from
  64. Pilkington, E. (1988). Beyond the mother country. London: I.B. Tauris.Google Scholar
  65. Platt, L. (2012). How do children of mixed partnerships fare in the United Kingdom? Understanding the implications for children of parental ethnic homogamy and heterogamy. The Annals of the American Academy of Political Social Science, 643, 239–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Porterfield, E. (1978). Black and white mixed marriages: An ethnographic study of black-white families. Chicago: Nelson-Hall.Google Scholar
  67. Powell, B., Hamilton, L., Manago, B., & Cheng, S. (2016). Implications of changing family forms for children. Annual Review of Sociology, 42, 301–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Pratt, R. (1998). Crossing the color line: Historical assessment and personal narrative of Loving v Virginia. Howard Law Journal, 41(2), 229–244.Google Scholar
  69. Qian, Z., & Lichter, D. T. (2007). Social boundaries and marital assimilation: Interpreting trends in racial and ethnic intermarriage. American Sociological Review, 72(1), 68–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Renn, K. A. (2003). Understanding the identities of mixed-race college students through a developmental ecology lens. Journal of College Student Development, 44(3), 383–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Rich, P. B. (1986). Race and empire in British politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  72. Rosenfeld, M. J., & Kim, B. S. (2005). The independence of young adults and the rise of interracial and same-sex unions. American Sociological Review, 70, 541–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Rusbult, C. E., Agnew, C. R., & Arriaga, X. B. (2012). The investment model of commitment processes. In P. A. Van Lange, A. W. Kruglanski, & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handboook of theories of social psychology (Vol. Vol. 2, pp. 218–231). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Sollors, W. (2000). Interracialism: Black-White intermarriage in American history, literature, and law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  75. Statistics Canada. (2003). Ethnic Diversity Survey: Portrait of a Multicultural Society. Catalogue No. 89-593-XIE, Ottawa: Statistics Canada.Google Scholar
  76. Statistics Canada. (2008). Canada’s Ethnocultural Mosaic, 2006 Census. Ottawa: Minister of Industry.Google Scholar
  77. Supplemental Tables. Retrieved November 17, 2016., from
  78. Taylor, P., Passel, J. S., Wang, W., Kiley, J., Velasco, G., Dockterman, D. (2010). Marrying out: One-in-seven new U.S. Marriages is interracial or interethnic. Report, Pew Research Center, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  79. Troy, A. B., Lewis-Smith, J., & Laurenceau, J. P. (2006). Interracial and intraracial romantic relationships: The search for differences in satisfaction, conflict, and attachment style. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 23(1), 65–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Tucker, M. B., & Mitchell-Kernan, C. (1990). New trends in black American interracial marriage: The social structural context. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 52(1), 209–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Wallenstein, P. (1995). The right to marry: Loving v Virginia. OAH Magazine of History, 9(2), 37–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Wang, W. (2012). The rise of intermarriage: Rates, characteristics vary by race and gender. Report. Washington, DC: Pew Research CenterGoogle Scholar
  83. Webb, C. (2016). Special relationships: Mixed race couples in post war Britain and the United States. Women’s History Review. Published online by Routledge. Retrieved November 17, from
  84. Wieling, E. (2003). Latino/a and White marriages: A pilot study investigating the experiences of interethnic couples in the United States. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 2(2–3), 41–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Wu, Z., Schimmele, C. M., & Hou, F. (2015). Group differences in intermarriage with White between Asians, Black, and Hispanics: The effects of assimilation and structural constraints. Journal of Social Issues, 71(4), 733–754.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Yancey, G., & Lewis, R. (2009). Interracial families: Current concepts and controversies. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Zackodnik, T. (2001). Fixing the color line: The mulatto, southern courts, and racial identity. American Quarterly, 53(3), 420–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Zhang, Y., & Van Hook, J. (2009). Marital dissolution among interracial couples. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71(1), 95–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human Development and Family ScienceUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

Personalised recommendations