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Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 21 No. 2 (Spring 2007)

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

Article Citation

Fryer, Roland G. Jr. 2007. "Guess Who's Been Coming to Dinner? Trends in Interracial Marriage over the 20th Century." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(2): 71-90.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.21.2.71

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.

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Fryer, Roland G. Jr.

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