IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

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


  • Roland G. Fryer Jr.


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Roland G. Fryer Jr., 2007. "Guess Who's Been Coming to Dinner? Trends in Interracial Marriage over the 20th Century," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 71-90, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:21:y:2007:i:2:p:71-90 Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.21.2.71

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jacob L. Vigdor, 1999. "The Rise and Decline of the American Ghetto," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(3), pages 455-506, June.
    3. 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..
    4. Roland G. Fryer & Matthew O. Jackson, 2002. "Categorical Cognition: A Psychological Model of Categories and Identification in Decision Making," Microeconomics 0211002, EconWPA.
    5. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
    6. Finis Welch, 2003. "Catching Up: Wages of Black Men," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 320-325, May.
    7. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "Understanding the Black-White Test Score Gap in the First Two Years of School," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 447-464, May.
    8. Federico Echenique & Roland G. Fryer, 2007. "A Measure of Segregation Based on Social Interactions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 441-485.
    9. Becker, Gary S, 1973. "A Theory of Marriage: Part I," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(4), pages 813-846, July-Aug..
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. repec:spr:jopoec:v:31:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s00148-017-0662-z is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Laouénan, Morgane, 2014. "'Can't Get Enough': Prejudice, Contact Jobs and the Racial Wage Gap in the US," IZA Discussion Papers 8006, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Roland G. Fryer Jr. & Lisa Kahn & Steven D. Levitt & Jörg L. Spenkuch, 2012. "The Plight of Mixed-Race Adolescents," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(3), pages 621-634, August.
    4. Belot, Michèle & Fidrmuc, Jan, 2010. "Anthropometry of love: Height and gender asymmetries in interethnic marriages," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 361-372, December.
    5. Frank T Denton & Byron G Spencer, 2016. "Immigration And The Rate Of Population Mixing: Explorations With A Stylized Model," Department of Economics Working Papers 2016-13, McMaster University.
    6. Alan Fernihough & Cormac Ó Gráda & Brendan M. Walsh, 2014. "Mixed marriages in Ireland a century ago," Working Papers 201407, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    7. Josue Ortega & Philipp Hergovich, 2017. "The Strength of Absent Ties: Social Integration via Online Dating," Papers 1709.10478,
    8. Chatterji, Aaron K. & Seamans, Robert C., 2012. "Entrepreneurial finance, credit cards, and race," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(1), pages 182-195.
    9. Fairlie, Robert W., 2009. "Can the "one-drop rule" tell us anything about racial discrimination? New evidence from the multiple race question on the 2000 Census," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 451-460, August.
    10. Ruebeck Christopher S & Averett Susan L & Bodenhorn Howard N, 2009. "Acting White or Acting Black: Mixed-Race Adolescents' Identity and Behavior," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-44, March.
    11. Nora Gordon & Sarah Reber, 2016. "The Effects of School Desegregation on Mixed-Race Births," NBER Working Papers 22480, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Stéphane Mechoulan, 2011. "The External Effects of Black Male Incarceration onBlack Females," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 1-35, January.
    13. Hou, Feng & Myles, John & Schimmele, Christoph & Wu, Zheng, 2015. "Group Size and Social Interaction: a Canada-US Comparison of Interracial Marriage," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2015-10, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 07 Jul 2015.
    14. Fernihough, Alan & Ó Gráda, Cormac & Walsh, Brendan M., 2015. "Intermarriage in a divided society: Ireland a century ago," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 1-14.
    15. Richard Wright & Steven Holloway & Mark Ellis, 2013. "Gender and the Neighborhood Location of Mixed-Race Couples," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(2), pages 393-420, April.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:21:y:2007:i:2:p:71-90. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jane Voros) or (Michael P. Albert). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.