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Interracial Marriage and Self-Reported Health of Whites and Blacks in the United States

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This study examines the self-reported health of 180,291 married non-Hispanic blacks and whites in interracial versus endogamous marriages. Data are from the National Health Interview Survey pooled over the period 1997–2013. The results from ordinal logistic regressions show that non-Hispanic whites intermarried with non-Hispanic blacks, non-Hispanic whites intermarried with non-Hispanic other races, and non-Hispanic white women with Hispanic husbands report significantly poorer health than their endogamous counterparts. Furthermore, non-Hispanic whites with non-Hispanic black spouses also fare worse than their interracially married peers with Hispanic spouses. In contrast, the self-reported health of married non-Hispanic blacks shows no significant difference between the interracially and the endogamously married. Our findings highlight the theoretical significance of spousal characteristics and couple-level contexts in the household production of health.
Interracial Marriage and Self-Reported Health
of Whites and Blacks in the United States
Yan-Liang Yu
Zhenmei Zhang
Received: 21 September 2016 / Accepted: 9 May 2017 / Published online: 17 May 2017
Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017
Abstract This study examines the self-reported health of 180,291 married non-
Hispanic blacks and whites in interracial versus endogamous marriages. Data are
from the National Health Interview Survey pooled over the period 1997–2013. The
results from ordinal logistic regressions show that non-Hispanic whites intermarried
with non-Hispanic blacks, non-Hispanic whites intermarried with non-Hispanic
other races, and non-Hispanic white women with Hispanic husbands report sig-
nificantly poorer health than their endogamous counterparts. Furthermore, non-
Hispanic whites with non-Hispanic black spouses also fare worse than their inter-
racially married peers with Hispanic spouses. In contrast, the self-reported health of
married non-Hispanic blacks shows no significant difference between the interra-
cially and the endogamously married. Our findings highlight the theoretical sig-
nificance of spousal characteristics and couple-level contexts in the household
production of health.
Keywords Interracial marriage Self-reported health Spousal race Racial pairing
Research on marriage and health consistently documents better mental and physical
health, and lower mortality rates, among married people compared to the unmarried
(Rendall et al. 2011; Waite and Gallagher 2000). Much less attention has been given
&Yan-Liang Yu
Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center, Columbia University, 722 W. 168th Street, 4th Floor
Room 410, New York, NY 10032, USA
Department of Sociology, Michigan State University, Berkey Hall, 509 E. Circle Drive Room
316, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
Popul Res Policy Rev (2017) 36:851–870
DOI 10.1007/s11113-017-9438-0
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... For example, partners share beds, synchronize circadian rhythms, and pool resources that affect sleep (Troxel, 2010). However, it remains less clear whether there is stratification in sleep duration based on one's own race/ethnicity and one's romantic partner's race/ethnicity, even as research consistently documents that those in interracial/ethnic (hereafter, "interracial") unions endure unique stressors produced by systemic racism and report worse mental (Kroeger & Williams, 2011;Wong & Penner, 2018) and physical health (Yu & Zhang, 2017) than those in same-race relationships. Therefore, this study examines the extent to which being in an interracial union influences sleep duration among a nationally representative sample of co-residential couples and whether this varies by race/ethnicity and the racial/ethnic composition of the couple. ...
... In addition, interviews with White adults married to Hispanic adults suggest that White partners have enhanced understanding of race/ethnicity and racism (Vasquez, 2014), potentially leading to "spillover stress." White adults married to Black spouses and "non-Hispanic Other" spouses also report lower self-rated health than White adults in same-race unions (Yu & Zhang, 2017), indicating that White adults in interracial relationships may be exposed to the negative consequences of living with systemic racism. Research has also indicated that Hispanic adults in particular are pushed towards homogamy through familial and social pressures, and that deviation from homogamy is explicitly sanctioned (Vasquez, 2015), potentially leading to unique stress and fewer resources (including time) to devote to sleep. ...
... As researchers view sleep as a process shaped by romantic partners (Troxel, 2010) and Americans' romantic relationships are becoming more diverse, understanding the influence of a partner's social characteristics, including race/ethnicity, for sleep is critical. Even as interracial relationships have increased over time (Parker & Barroso, 2021), recent research has documented that those in interracial unions report less favorable mental (Bratter & Eschbach, 2006;Kroeger & Williams, 2011;Wong & Penner, 2018) and physical health (Lykke & Rendall, 2017;Yu & Zhang, 2017) than those in same-race unions, likely reflecting the negative health consequences of living under systemic racism. In this study, we examined whether interracial relationships and the racial/ethnic composition of those relationships were associated with sleep duration and asked whether these associations varied by gender and union type. ...
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For Americans in romantic unions, sleep occurs in the context of couple relationships. Romantic partners influence one another's circadian rhythms, share beds, buffer or cause stress, and share resources that can be used to improve sleep. Moreover, sleep among individuals in interracial relationships may be negatively impacted by the social construction of race/ethnicity that drive health disparities and that point to the importance of factors such as racism, stress and social adversity that represent the unique lived reality of interracial couples in the U.S. Using non-dyadic data from the 2004–2018 National Health Interview Survey (n = 243,552) we fit a series of multinomial regression models predicting self-reported sleep duration of six or fewer (short), seven to eight (normal), and nine or more (long) hours. After adjusting for demographics, household socioeconomic characteristics, and health characteristics/behaviors, we find that individuals in interracial unions report significantly higher odds of short sleep compared to normal sleep. Race/ethnic stratified models indicated that all respondents in interracial relationships had higher odds of reporting short sleep, but that the association was particularly pronounced among non-Hispanic White adults and Hispanic adults. Generally, we find few differences in these associations between men and women or between those in marital versus those in cohabiting relationships. Future research should continue to investigate how social inequality conditions sleep for Americans in romantic relationships.
... Receiving support and acceptance from family members are also challenging for IBW couples since Black families generally exhibit hostility toward White supremacy, while White families have negative stereotypes against Black people (Chuang et al., 2021;Franco et al., 2020). These attitudes toward IBW couples cause greater psychological distress and decrease relationship satisfaction (Roy et al., 2020;Yu & Zhang, 2017). As a result of experiencing racism or discrimination stress, partners' stress can spill over to each other, which may lead to marital strains, dissolution, or divorce (Bratter & King, 2008;Clavél et al., 2017). ...
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The current study set out to examine the influence of religiosity on the relationship between interracial Black-White (IBW) couples’ perceived discrimination and marital satisfaction. Data from 178 Black-White couples were used to test a common fate moderation model. Results revealed a negative association between partners’ perceived discrimination and marital satisfaction. Also, White partners’ religiosity was found to moderate the effects of discrimination on satisfaction, whereby a higher level of religiosity contributed to higher satisfaction when couples experienced discrimination. Results suggested that religiosity may be an important resource to help Black-White couples manage discrimination stress.
... They also found that women were less satisfied with relationship quality than women were in same race relationships. Yu and Zhang (2017) explored the impact of interracial marriage on self-reported health. Utilizing the National Health Interview Survey data from 1997 to 2013. ...
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Rates of inter-marriage between races have dramatically increased in the United States over the past 50 years. Despite this shift, the relationships between interracial couples and their in-laws remain understudied. The purpose of this article is to provide preliminary insight into a variety of issues that 13 interracial couples faced with their parents-in-law. After a literature review and discussion of the methods, we present themes and categories that emerged from the interviews. Our hope is that this analysis may offer a starting lens for social workers to understand the nexus of interracial marriage and in-law relationships.
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Marriage is protective against suicide across most populations, including for persons of different ethnicities and immigrant backgrounds. However, the well-being benefits of marriage are contingent upon marital characteristics—such as conflict and quality—that may vary across spousal dyads with different immigration backgrounds. Leveraging Swedish register data, we compare suicide mortality among married persons on the basis of their and their spouse’s immigration backgrounds. We find that relative to those in a native Swede-Swede union, Swedish men married to female immigrants and immigrant women married to native men are at higher risk of death by suicide, while immigrants of both genders who are married to someone from their birth country have a lower risk of suicide mortality. The findings support hypotheses about the strains that may be encountered by those who intermarry, as well as the potential selection of individuals into inter- and intra-ethnic marriages.
Microaggressions can adversely impact the relational quality of interracial couples comprised of Black women and White men. Microaggressions are verbal, non-verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities that convey negative racial slights to individuals of color (Sue et al., 2007 Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M. B., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62(4), 271–286.[Crossref], [PubMed], [Web of Science ®] , [Google Scholar]). Although couple and family therapists are implored to discuss microaggressions within therapy, a specific intervention to explore this dynamic is lacking. However, a lifemap could be utilized by therapists who assist interracial couples. Lifemaps are a client-constructed pictorial detailing the life events of a specific personal trajectory (Hodge, 2005b Hodge, D. (2005b). Spiritual lifemaps: A client-centered pictorial instrument for spiritual assessment, planning, and intervention. Social Work, 50(1), 77–87.[Crossref], [PubMed], [Web of Science ®] , [Google Scholar]). This intervention has been used to ascertain an individual’s spiritual awareness, but they have not been modified in the clinical literature to assess an individual’s racial awareness. The theoretical framework for modifying spiritual lifemaps into racial lifemaps is Critical Race Theory (CRT). The themes of endemic racism and voices of color within CRT are particularly insightful for exploring the experiences of interracial couples. This paper will provide a composite case study of Black women married to White men demonstrating the use of racial lifemaps to address unresolved microaggressions and strategies for future microaggressive experiences.
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Within the United States, approximately 17% of marriages occur between spouses of different races and/or ethnicities, while 1 out of every 7 children born identify as multiracial. Research suggests that, compared with monoracial couples, multiracial couples are at increased risk for negative relationship outcomes including divorce or separation. Although little research explores why these disparities exist, we surmise that poorer relational outcomes in multiracial families may be the result of heightened conflict caused by a greater difference in partners’ values and beliefs. In an understudied sample of expectant couples working in low-wage jobs, we examine differences in partner gender ideology and parenting beliefs as possible mechanisms underlying differential outcomes in relationship quality among multiracial families. This study examines whether the relationship between couple’s racial and ethnic composition (i.e., same versus different racial/ethnic backgrounds) and relationship quality (conflict, love, satisfaction) is mediated by differences in parenting beliefs and gender ideology. It is hypothesized that one mechanism that explains poorer outcomes (i.e., more conflict, less love, less satisfaction) is greater cross-racial differences in parenting beliefs and gender ideologies. Results indicated that multiracial families have lower love and relationship satisfaction and greater partner differences in gender ideology beliefs, however, gender ideology did not mediate the relationship between couple type and relationship quality. Overall, this study highlights the need for more longitudinal research and the exploration of other mechanisms underlying the different relationship outcomes for monoracial and multiracial families like social support, religiosity, and multicultural values.
In this paper, we analyze detailed maternal and paternal race information in a 25-year time series of birth record data to consider racial inequities in premature births experienced by women of color and women within interracial parent couples. We analyze birth outcomes within Utah, a historically racially homogeneous state experiencing growing racial diversity and interracial marriage over the past two decades. Our analyses consider disparities in preterm birth according to maternal race and the interracial status of couples for all birth certificate records within the Utah Population Database from 1989 to 2015 (N = 1,148,818). Our results, consistent with a dyadic perspective on minority stress, indicate that maternal race and interracial parent-couple status are each significantly associated with heightened risk of premature birth. The odds of preterm birth are significantly greater among all four racialized groups in the analyses (African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders) as compared to White women. Furthermore, we find that mothers in mixed-race parent couples with either a white or a black father experience a greater risk of preterm birth than mothers parenting with a father of the same race. Our results suggest that in order to capture the complete perspective on racial-ethnic disparities in adverse birth outcomes, outcomes pivotal for subsequent health outcomes over the life course, it is critical to address racism’s toxic effects across multiple levels of lived experience—from the individual level, to the parent dyad, to the local community and beyond.
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Marital health advantages and the increase of interracial marriage (intermarriage) are well documented, but few studies investigate the health of intermarried people. We address this issue using aggregated data from the 2000–2013 Current Population Survey (CPS) and find that people with racial/ethnic minority spouses report lower self-rated health than those married to whites. Spousal race significantly moderated the association between respondent’s race and self-rated health such that minorities in same-race marriages had lower odds of reporting better health than those intermarried to whites. However, we found no differences in self-rated health among minorities intermarried to other minorities. There was also limited evidence that gender and socioeconomic status (SES) moderated the interaction between respondent’s race and spousal race. Our findings highlight the effects of marriage on the self-rated health of respondents and their spouse as well as the importance of examining differences in couple’s racial composition when investigating racial disparities in spousal health.
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There has been a significant amount of research that has indicated divergent patterns of leisure participation among African Americans and European Americans; however, there has been a paucity of research that addresses the leisure patterns of interracial couples and families. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the leisure patterns of interracial couples and families, specifically African American and European American couples. A qualitative design was employed to gather in-depth interview data from six couples. The findings indicated that the interracial couples felt socially isolated in various aspects of daily life, including work, family, and leisure. The primary cause of their social isolation was due to race and racism. The couples experienced low levels of comfort when participating in leisure within public spaces. There was not a distinct pattern of leisure activity among the couples; however, there was a distinct process the couples went through in selecting activities prior to participation in order to avoid negative social reactions.
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Interracial marriages between blacks and majority group members often face higher social sanctions than other types of interracial marriages. Therefore, majority group members in interracial marriages with a black partner may learn to conceptualize racial issues differently than those without black partners. This paper conducts a preliminary investigation into whether the racial perspectives of white spouses in interracial marriages with blacks are different from the perspectives of whites in interracial marriages with non-blacks. White partners of twenty-one interracial marriages are interviewed. While whites married to non-blacks alter their racial perspectives, they do not experience racism as do whites married to blacks. These experiences of racism may change white perspectives on specific racial issues such as affirmative action and racial profiling. This research suggests the experiences of whites in interracial marriages vary depending on the race of their marital partners.
Most studies of racial intermarriage rely on the prevalence of intermarriage to measure the strength of group boundaries, without scrutinizing the nature of intermarriage pairings. Examination of intermarried couples' characteristics reveals (1) that intermarriages and endogamous marriages follow different patterns, and (2) that intermarriage pairings for some groups reflect a generalized racial status hierarchy. According to evidence from the 1990 CI.S. Census PUMS, patterns in blacks' and Mexican Americans' marriages with whites suggest that a generalized racial status hierarchy disadvantages members of these minority groups. For marriages between Japanese Americans and whites, however, crossing the group boundary does not affect couples' characteristics.
Asians have settled in every country in the Western Hemisphere; some are recent arrivals, other descendents of immigrants who arrived centuries ago. Bringing together essays by thirteen scholars from the humanities and social sciences, Displacements and Diasporas explores this genuinely transnational Asian American experience-one that crosses the Pacific and traverses the Americas from Canada to Brazil, from New York to the Caribbean. With an emphasis on anthropological and historical contexts, the essays show how the experiences of Asians across the Americas have been shaped by the social dynamics and politics of settlement locations as much as by transnational connections and the economic forces of globalization. Contributors bring new insights to the unique situations of Asian communities previously overlooked by scholars, such as Vietnamese Canadians and the Lao living in Rhode Island. Other topics include Chinese laborers and merchants in Latin America and the Caribbean, Japanese immigrants and their descendants in Brazil, Afro-Amerasians in America, and the politics of second-generation Indian American youth culture. Together the essays provide a valuable comparative portrait of Asians across the Americas. Engaging issues of diaspora, transnational social practice and community building, gender, identity, institutionalized racism, and deterritoriality, this volume presents fresh perspectives on displacement, opening the topic up to a wider, more interdisciplinary terrain of inquiry and teaching.