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Ethnic melting in US slows down

world Updated: May 27, 2010 01:02 IST
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Melting pot or racial divide? The growth of interracial marriages is slowing among US-born Hispanics and Asians.

Still, blacks are substantially more likely than before to marry whites.

The number of interracial marriages in the US has risen 20 per cent since 2000 to about 4.5 million, according to the latest census figures. While still growing, that number is a marked drop-off from the 65 per cent increase between 1990 and 2000.

About 8 per cent of US marriages are mixed race, up from 7 per cent in 2000.

The latest trend belies notions of the US as a post-racial, assimilated society. Demographers cite a steady flow of recent immigration that has given Hispanics and Asians more ethnically similar partners to choose while creating some social distance from whites due to cultural differences and foreign language.

White wariness toward a rapidly growing US minority population also may be contributing to racial divisions, experts said.

“Racial boundaries are not going to disappear anytime soon,” said Daniel Lichter, a professor of sociology and public policy at Cornell University. He noted the increase in anti-immigrant sentiment in the US after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks as well as current tensions in Arizona over its new immigration law.

“With a white backlash toward immigrant groups, some immigrants are more likely to turn inward to each other for support,” Lichter said.

Broken down by race, about 40 per cent of US-born Asians now marry whites — a figure unchanged since 1980. Their likelihood of marrying foreign-born Asians, meanwhile, jumped three times for men and five times for women, to roughly 20 per cent.