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

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  • Roland G. Fryer Jr.

Abstract

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
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.21.2.71
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    7. 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..
    8. 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.
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