Intermarriage and Ethnic Boundaries: The Japanese American Case1


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    This is a revised version of a paper read at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Pacific Sociological Association in Portland, Oregon, April, 1972. I am grateful for the helpful reading of an earlier draft of this paper by Milton Barron, David and JoAnne Kagiwada, and Ralph Turner. I am especially indebted to Eileen Walsh for gathering some of the data reported here and for her insightful interpretation of them.


Intermarriage is an especially sensitive indicator of the permeability of ethnic boundaries: The rate can tell us something about how rigid the boundaries are, while the pattern can suggest the forces that maintain or reduce them. A survey of the marriage records of Japanese Americans in Fresno, California indicates that both the pattern of intermarriage (that is, whether the minority group partners are male or female) and the rate of intermarriage have changed noticeably in the last decade. Explanations are suggested for these changes and implications for the boundary surrounding the Japanese Americans are discussed.