America: as if it is 1970

By Razib Khan | April 26, 2012 11:19 pm

I noticed that The Washington Post had an article up, Number of biracial babies soars over past decade, based on 2010 Census data. I was immediately curious if my expectations were correct in this case, because the term “biracial” has a very specific connotation. That is, there are two races, and in America that is black and white. If you want to break out of this old dichotomy you usually say multiracial. This paradigm has a historical valence, because the “race issue” in America has traditionally been in black and white, with a minor secondary role for native populations. I say traditionally, because by any measure the minority of America’s minorities are now black.

And sure enough the article does focus on the black-white dimension, with honorable mention for a woman of Asian heritage. But it is notionally based on the Census, right? It was easy to find the press release on the Census website. Here is the table accompanying it:


Even excluding white Hispanic/white non-Hispanic pairings, it is clear that the traditional “mixed marriage” between a black and white Anglo American is now the minority of interracial marriages. But the media is determined to continue pressing ahead with the tried & true narrative, which dates back two generations, and has roots in an America before the 1965 liberalization of immigration.

Generally when I see write-ups of statistical results, I immediately go to the original source. The fact is that the media is liable to simply shade and color the results to suit their own pat narrative. That’s just human nature. But in an age when newspapers are complaining about a collapse of their business model, I often have a hard time having much sympathy when this is the quality and character of their “value-added” analysis.

MORE ABOUT: Culture, Interracial

Comments (6)

  1. Karl Zimmerman

    I’ve said this before Razib, but we have no reason to expect interracial married couples track closely with interracial children. This is particularly the case for black/white pairings, given (As of 2010) 73% of children born to black women were born out of wedlock (compared to 29% of whites).

    I’d assume that the numbers for black/white pairings probably are somewhere between this range, as out-of-wedlock birth is closely associated with class, meaning working-class white women (who would have more social interaction with black men), should have higher rates, while middle-class black women (who would be more likely to meet white partners) would have lower rates.

  2. #1, well, the cohabitation/couple rates are about the same. though you make a valid point.

  3. Chris2

    Okay, I just read 1493, and I am not quite sure what the “racial identity” is when it is “Hispanic.” I personally thought it was interesting when the La Raza table at my kids’ high school included one very Asian looking young lady, and the young man who was also participating in the Black Student Union table. I am going to scour your website for more data on an article I am thinking about (and not just the articles you wrote on the book).

    As a disclaimer: I am very pale with reddish hair. When the Texas high school survey asked me what “color” I was I wanted to say “polka dotted.” This was prompted by the reactions of my fellow students in the civics class in 1975. This high school was in the town next to one of the largest Army bases in the USA, Ft. Hood, TX. My classmates complained there was no designation for Korean/black, white/Japanese, Puerto Rican/French, German/black, etc.

    And after doing some reading, I am not sure that “black” doesn’t include lots of other different things. Just like my fellow Army brat classmates.

    In addition, as an Army brat, I got to live in Venezuela. There I learned that the Spanish recognized mulatto, mestizo, indio, etc. There were levels of privilege given depending on your ancestry. And one was considered “less” if they were born in the Americas versus Spain. Hence Simon Bolivar was also considered a lesser person than the governor who was from Spain. Some of that racism was still active there, because the folks with lighter skin had more power.

    The reason I learned this was because we were required to have a certain number of hours of Venezuelan history and social studies. Fortunately we had a Venezuelan teacher who was a great story teller and who did hold back. She laid it out that the conquistadors essentially wiped out the native Carib population, and then brought in slaves from Africa.

    Which turns out is a major part of the book 1493. I will never quote Bug Bunny’s bit on maroons ever again.

  4. One issue that the statistics in the table in the original post might not pick up is that it does not measure unmarried couple households, which make up a much larger share of African-American families than they do of other race/ethnicity combinations.

    My guess would be that non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic black married couples would be a considerably smaller share of the total number of married couples than non-Hispanic blacks make up of the U.S. population, making the percentage of non-Hispanic black individuals who are in mixed race/mixed ethnicity marriages reasonably high. I also suspect that the ratios would differ rather starkly by gender.

    Of course births and marriages are two very different things these days.

  5. #4, the data has unmarried people, as i said in #2. qualitatively the results are the same.

  6. Ed

    Wow, that really is surprising. All the recent press leads us to believe that most IR marriages are black/white. It would be interesting to see where a lot of these hispanic/white marriages are most frequent, as it doesn’t seem to be the case in California.

    The aforementioned media is probably just using ‘selective statistics’ to prove a point or further their agenda.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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