27 July 2010

Race: Black Men & White Women; Asian Women & Black Men

Stephen Kershnar
Imbalance in Interracial Marriage
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
July 20, 2010

In politics, race has reared its ugly head. The NAACP accused the Tea Party of racism. Charges of racism have been directed at the Obama administration’s refusal to prosecute the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation. Racial comments have plagued Obama’s former minister Jeremiah Wright, Obama administration czars Van Jones and Mark Lloyd, and U.S. Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod. President Obama injected himself into a conflict between a Harvard professor and a police officer and the conflict and summit led to a nationwide discussion of race. Oddly, there is much less discussion of interracial marriage, particularly an asymmetrical marriage pattern, which is far more interesting.

In the U.S., Interracial marriage is common. The 2000 census shows that 4.9% of marriages are interracial (2,669,558 marriages). There is a striking asymmetry in marriages involving whites, blacks, and Asian-Americans. Consider blacks. Black males are far more likely to marry whites than are black women. In 2006, 6.6% of black males (286,000) had a white spouse, whereas only 2.8% of black women (117,000) had one. On a side note a similar pattern likely holds for cohabitation and sex.

Steve Sailor, president of the Human Biodiversity Institute, points out that this difference underestimates the pattern given the acute shortage of black males in relation to black females. The 2000 census indicates that there are 10 black women for every 9 black men. In addition, roughly 10% of young black men (ages 20-29) are incarcerated in a given year (2002 figure) and roughly one in three is under the control of the criminal justice system. In addition, Sailor points out, black women work far more often in corporate offices, universities, and other places that have richer and more educated men and this should be given them greater access to potential white spouses.

The opposite pattern is true for Asian-Americans. For Asian-American/white marriages, 75% involve an Asian-American woman and white man. This is a strong effect given that in 2006, 41% of Asian-American-born women had a white husband. In the past, this pattern has resulted in significantly more Asian-American women being married than Asian-American men. One issue is what explains these asymmetries. A second issue is whether it justifies the anger that is alleged to be percolating among black women and, to a lesser extent, Asian-American men.

One explanation is that black males and Asian-American women are doing what business people often do, expanding their market, thereby giving them access to more buyers and more leverage over ones from their own group. This explanation is unsatisfactory because if it were just an economic explanation one would expect black women and Asian-American men to do the same thing and they don’t do so as often. In addition, if this were correct, Asian-American men and black women would improve their economic position by dating or marrying each other and they don’t. In 2006, there were very few marriages (.02% of all marriages) between Asian-American men and black women.

A second explanation has to do with how social condition shapes women’s preferences. A study by Columbia University professor Raymond Fisman and fellow researchers indicates that when it comes to dating, women have a strong preference for their own race, whereas men don’t. For example, black women prefer black men, Hispanic women prefer Hispanic men, and so on. The one exception was East Asian women (Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans). They treated Asian-American and white men the same and discriminated against others. This explanation claims that the asymmetry is explained by women’s preferences and that these preferences are the result of social conditioning. This explanation doesn’t explain why social conditioning would lead Asian-American women, but not other minority women, to avoid discriminating against white men. In any case, this explanation is at most part of the picture because it doesn’t explain the pattern with regard to blacks. In addition, Steve Sailor points out that the social-conditioning theory fails to take into account how different the conditioning and culture are among groups like Koreans, Filipinos, Cambodian refugees, and 5th generation Japanese-Americans.

A third explanation is that on average, and with many exceptions, black men and Asian-American women are better looking than their same-race counterparts. Black women are considerably more likely to be obese when compared to black men and white women. Using data from The Journal of the American Medical Association, they are 33% and 50% respectively more likely to be obese. In general, society severely punishes obesity. Obese women are 20% less likely to marry and 30% less likely to had sex over the past year when compared to normal-weight women. They are also paid significantly less in the workplace (one study found that obese white women make 24% less). One survey showed that college students would prefer a spouse who is an embezzler, drug user, or shoplifter than someone who is obese. When it comes to dating, Raymond Fisman and his fellow researchers showed that men emphasize their partner’s looks far more than do women.

Asian-American men are on average shorter than other males and society punishes short men. As Stanford University law professor Deborah Rhode points out, short men are less likely to be hired and promoted, paid less, and underrepresented in leadership positions. For example, University of Rochester economics Steven Landsburg points out that on average, men who are 6-feet tall make roughly $6,000 more than someone who is 5-foot-6-inches after controlling for education and experience.

Anecdotally, there are more Asian-American women than men who are sex symbols (for example, Lucy Liu and Sandra Oh) and news anchors (for example, Lisa Ling and Connie Chung). The women also seem to be far more common in online pornography. Don’t believe me? Check. Also, because Asian-American women are less likely to be overweight or obese than their white and black women competitors and they likely have a competitive advantage in dating and marriage that their male counterparts lack. When it comes to stereotypes, as Sailor points out, Asian-American men are often portrayed in TV as less masculine than other groups (for example, African-American men).

I’m not sure what to make of this third explanation. At most, it is part of the picture. Also, whether the pattern is desirable is a question left for another day.

There are reports that black women bitterly resent this pattern. Sailor cites discussions in movies like Waiting to Exhale and daytime talk shows. A similar pattern, albeit less visible, is reported among Asian-American men. It is unclear whether these anecdotes represent a widespread attitude or just attention-grabbing stories. In any case, the resentment is misplaced in that it is hard to see what the objection is to individuals finding love and moving toward a better life. If individuals don’t have moral duties toward racial groups or cultures, and it is hard to see why they would, the resentment is just envy masquerading as race solidarity.

16 comments:

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