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Guess Who's Been Coming to Dinner? Trends in Interracial Marriage over the 20th Century

  • Roland G. Fryer Jr.
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    This paper studies marriages across black, white, and Asian racial lines. Marrying across racial lines is a rare event, even today. Interracial marriages account for approximately 1 percent of white marriages, 5 percent of black marriages, and 14 percent of Asian marriages. Following a brief history of the regulation of race and romance in America, I analyze interracial marriage using census data from 1880-2000, uncovering a rich set of cross-section and time-series patterns. I investigate the extent to which three different theories of interracial marriage can account for the patterns discovered. After also testing a social exchange theory and a search model, I find the data are most consistent with a Becker-style marriage market model in which objective criteria of a potential spouse, their race, and the social price of intermarriage are central.

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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.21.2.71
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    Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

    Volume (Year): 21 (2007)
    Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
    Pages: 71-90

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    Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:21:y:2007:i:2:p:71-90
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.21.2.71
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    1. Becker, Gary S, 1973. "A Theory of Marriage: Part I," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(4), pages 813-46, July-Aug..
    2. Adachi, Hiroyuki, 2003. "A search model of two-sided matching under nontransferable utility," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 113(2), pages 182-198, December.
    3. Finis Welch, 2003. "Catching Up: Wages of Black Men," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 320-325, May.
    4. Roland G. Fryer & Matthew O. Jackson, 2002. "Categorical Cognition: A Psychological Model of Categories and Identification in Decision Making," Microeconomics 0211002, EconWPA.
    5. Cutler, David & Vigdor, Jacob & Glaeser, Edward, 1999. "The Rise and Decline of the American Ghetto," Scholarly Articles 2770033, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    6. Ronald Oaxaca, 1971. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," Working Papers 396, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    7. Roland G. Fryer, Jr. & Steven D. Levitt, 2002. "Understanding the Black-White Test Score Gap in the First Two Years of School," NBER Working Papers 8975, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Fryer, Roland & Echenique, Federico, 2007. "A Measure of Segregation Based on Social Interactions," Scholarly Articles 2958220, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    9. Rosen, Sherwin, 1974. "Hedonic Prices and Implicit Markets: Product Differentiation in Pure Competition," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 34-55, Jan.-Feb..
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