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Interracial marriage rate doubles in 30 years: how US attitudes have changed

About 15 percent of all new marriages in the US in 2010 were between spouses of different race or ethnicity, according to a Pew Center report. In 1980 it was 6.7 percent. 

Hai Nguyen and her husband, Jon Pope, stand outside their home in Houston in this May 2010 photo. They are part of a growing trend of interracial marriage.

Michael Stravato/AP/File

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The rate at which Americans marry someone of another race has more than doubled over the past three decades, a sign of increasing public acceptance of once-taboo relationships.

About 15 percent of all new marriages in the United States in 2010 were between spouses of different race or ethnicity, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center. In 1980 the share was 6.7 percent. The Pew Center refers to marriages of mixed ethnicity in cases where Latinos and non-Latinos married.

Alongside the growing numbers of such mixed marriages, American approval of family ties that cross racial and ethnic lines has been rising.

The Pew report draws on the center's own polling, as well as on Census records relating to marriage. In Pew's polling during the past three years, 63 percent of Americans say it “would be fine” with them if a member of their own family were to marry someone outside their own racial or ethnic group.

In 1986, the public was divided about this, with 28 percent saying interracial marriage was not acceptable for anyone, and an additional 37 percent saying it may be acceptable for others, but not for themselves. Only one-third of the public viewed interracial marriage as acceptable for everyone.

Today, 35 percent of Americans say they have an immediate family member or close relative who is currently married to someone of a different race.

All this doesn't mean that race has become a meaningless concept for Americans.

A USA Today/Gallup poll last year found, for instance, that 46 percent of Americans (including 44 percent of whites and 55 percent of blacks) agreed with the statement that relations between blacks and whites "will always be a problem for the United States," while a majority of the public sided with the view that "a solution will eventually be worked out."


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