WASHINGTON (AP) — More and more Americans are marrying people of different races and ethnicities, reaching at least 1 in 6 newlyweds in 2015, the highest proportion in American history, a new study released Thursday showed.
Currently, 11 million people — or 1 out of 10 married people — in the United States have a spouse of a different race or ethnicity, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
This is a big jump from 50 years ago when the Supreme Court ruled interracial marriage was legal throughout the United States. That year, only 3 percent of newlyweds were intermarried — which means they had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity. In 2015, 17 percent of newlyweds were intermarried, a number which had held steady from the year before.
"There's much greater racial tolerance in the United States, with attitudes having changed in a way where it's much more positive toward interracial marriage," said Daniel T. Lichter, director of the Institute for the Social Sciences at Cornell University, who studies interracial and interethnic marriages. "But I think that a greater reason is the growing diversity of the population. There are just more demographic opportunities for people to marry someone of another race or ethnicity."
Asians were most likely to intermarry in 2015, with 29 percent of newlywed Asians married to someone of a different race or ethnicity, followed by Hispanics at 27 percent, blacks at 18 percent and whites at 11 percent.
The study also found differences between men and women.
Asian and Hispanic women were the most likely to marry someone of a different race or ethnicity in 2015, while Hispanic and black men were the most likely among men, the data showed. Thirty-six percent of Asian women and 28 percent of Hispanic women intermarried in 2015, while 26 percent of Hispanic men and 24 percent of black men married someone of a different race or ethnicity.
White and black women were the least likely to consider someone of a different race or ethnicity in 2015. Only 10 percent of white women married outside their race or ethnicity, while only 12 percent of black women were involved in intermarriage — half the rate of black men.
White men were the least likely among males to consider intermarriage, with only 12 percent involved in interracial or interethnic marriages.
Despite those numbers, intermarriage is rapidly becoming more popular among blacks and whites. Since 1980, the number of blacks who chose to marry someone of a different race or ethnicity rose from 5 percent to 18 percent. Whites also have become more accepting of intermarriage, with the rates increasing from 4 percent to 11 percent during that same time period.
Interracial marriage became legal throughout the United States in 1967 when Richard and Mildred Loving took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Lovings were thrown into a Virginia jail in 1958 for violating the state's ban on interracial marriage. The Supreme Court struck down the Virginia law and those in roughly one-third of the states in 1967.
The study also found:
— The most common intermarriages were between a Hispanic and a white spouse at 42 percent. The next most common were between a white and an Asian spouse at 15 percent followed by a multiracial and a white spouse at 12 percent.
— Interracial and interethnic marriages are more likely to happen in cities. Eighteen percent of newlyweds in metropolitan areas were intermarried compared with 11 percent living elsewhere.
— Roughly half — or 49 percent — of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents see intermarriage as a good thing for society. For Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, less than 1 in 3 — or 28 percent— saw marriages between races and ethnicities as a good thing for society.