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Interracial Marriage

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That’s the number. At least according to Public Policy Polling. That seems rather high. So I decided to go back and look at the RACMAR variable in the General Social Survey. Here’s the question:

Do you think there should be laws against marriages between African-Americans and whites?

They kept asking the question for 30 years, but dropped it in 2002. Here’s the reason:

By 2002 it was a consistent finding that less than 10% of Americans would accede to the proposition that interracial marriage should be legally banned. So the finding that that 46% of Mississippi Republicans agree with that position, and that only 40% reject it outright, is somewhat curious. Here’s the question in PPP:

Do you think interracial marriage should be legal or illegal?

The outcomes were:

– 40% said legal

– 46% said illegal

– 14% were not sure

Remember that the sample was limited to Mississippi Republicans. Let’s go back and look at some of the demographic correlates for the responses to RACMAR between 1998 and 2002, when the proportion responding yes and no was relatively constant. I’ll focus on region and politics.

Ban interracial marriage
Liberal 7
Moderate 10
Conservative 12
Democrat 10
Independent 10
Republican 11
New England 7
Middle Atlantic 8
East North Central 9
West North Central 9
South Atlantic 11
East South Central 26
West South Central 15
Mountain 7
Pacific 5
East South Central Only
Ban interracial marriage
Liberal 16
Moderate 28
Conservative 30
Democrat 19
Independent 28
Republican 34

The “East South Central” is a Census division. It consists of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Of these states Mississippi is probably the most conservative one, so we can assume that its proportion was higher than 34 percent. Also, it is the least populous of the states, with less than half the population of Tennessee, so its weight may have been lower. It still seems to me that 10 years on from 2002 we should see a lower number than 46 percent for Mississippi Republicans, but the PPP value isn’t implausible on the face of it. Additionally, the election of a biracial liberal Democrat as President of the United States may have made the race issue more salient for white Southern Republicans.

Finally, there were two crosstabs which I thought were kind of strange:

I think the liberal Republican opposition to interracial marriage in Mississippi is due to small sample size and mistaken responses. I really doubt there are very many liberal Republicans in Mississippi. But the age results confuse me. The GSS doesn’t indicate any increased opposition to interracial marriage among conservative/Republican respondents 10 years ago in the East South Central region. On the contrary.

• Category: Science • Tags: Culture, Interracial Marriage 
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A quick follow-up to my previous post which points to the data that women tend to be more race-conscious in dating than men. There’s a variable in the GSS which asks if you support a ban on interracial marriage, RACMAR. Here’s the question itself:

Do you think there should be laws against marriages between (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) and whites?

There isn’t much surprising in the results for this variable. It was asked between 1972 and 2002, and support for a ban on interracial marriages dropped over time. Whites, old people, conservatives, and less educated people, tended to support these bans, as well as Southerners. But what about men vs. women? I’ve never actually looked at that. I limited the sample to whites; the number of blacks in the sample is small and wouldn’t alter the result, but I figured I’d control for race anyway. Support for such laws is in the 35-40% range for whites in 1972, before dropping off to 5-15% in 2002.

Here’s the trendline broken down by sex:


There is a small but consistent difference until the last year. The difference is within 95% intervals within a given year of course. But the consistency of the greater female support for interracial marriage bans made me want to perform a logistic regression. I decided to look at the total sample, and also limit it to the 1970s. The pseudo r-square for both is ~0.20. Italics means lack of statistical significance. The other values were all p = 0.000 in the GSS interface.

Full Sample 1972-1980
Sex -0.282 -0.428
Degree 0.467 0.430
Intelligence 0.296 0.329
Political Ideology -0.147 -0.178
Year of Survey 0.054 0.041
Age 0.036 -0.041

These results confirm that being female predicts a greater likelihood of supporting laws against interracial marriage. Having more education and being intelligent reduced the probability. Surprisingly year and age don’t matter much when you’re taking other variables into account.

As a final note, let’s compare sex differences on another issue: homosexuality. The HOMOSEX variable asks about “sexual relations between adults of the same sex.” There are four responses:

1 = Always wrong

2 = Almost always wrong

3 = Sometimes wrong

4 = Not wrong at all

Using the GSS I computed the mean value year by year. So if in 1974 50% said homosexual sex was always wrong, and 50% not wrong at all, you’d have a mean value of 2.5. Here is the trendline by year by sex:


As with interracial marriage, there is a small, but consistent, sex difference. On the margins the sex difference will disappear, so one can think of it as one sex “lagging” the other on social change.

Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at"