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A PATH TOWARD INTERRACIAL MARRIAGE: Women’s First Partners and Husbands across Racial Lines


*Rosalind Berkowitz King, Demographic and Behavioral Sciences Branch, Center for Population Research, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 6100 Executive Blvd., Room 8B07, Bethesda, MD 20892-7510, e-mail:; to Jenifer L. Bratter, Department of Sociology, MS-28, Rice University, 6100 S. Main Street, Houston, TX 77005-1892; email:


We examine interracial marriage as a culminating event in a sequence of intimate relationships across the life course. Using data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, we analyze the background characteristics associated with selecting a first sex partner and first husband who differ in race/ethnicity from the respondent as well as the continuity across both outcomes. Our results show that respondents’ race/ethnicity, parents’ education, and region of birth are significant predictors of both choices. Selecting partners across racial lines for first sex is significantly associated with the selection of a first husband across race; the association between both outcomes is particularly strong for non-Hispanic black women, implying that social integration across race may be a life course phenomenon.