Broken Boundaries or Broken Marriages? Racial Intermarriage and Divorce in the United States


  • Nicholas Wolfinger will share all data and coding for replication purposes. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America and at the 2008 National Survey of Family Growth Research Conference. We thank Alta Williams for research assistance.

Direct correspondence to Nicholas H. Wolfinger, University of Utah, Department of Family and Consumer Studies, 225 S. 1400 E., Alfred Emery Bldg. 228, Salt Lake City, UT 84112 〈〉.



Several recent studies have investigated the consequences of racial intermarriage for marital stability. None of these studies properly control for first-order racial differences in divorce risk, therefore failing to appropriately identify the effect of intermarriage. Our article builds on an earlier generation of studies to develop a model that appropriately identifies the consequences of crossing racial boundaries in matrimony.


We analyze the 1995 and 2002 National Survey of Family Growth using a parametric event-history model called a sickle model. To appropriately identify the effect of interracial marriage we use the interaction of wife's race and husband's race.


We find elevated divorce rates for Latino/white intermarriages but not for black/white intermarriages. Seventy-two percent of endogamous Latino marriages remain intact at 15 years, but only 58 percent of Latino husband/white wife and 64 percent of white husband/Latina wife marriages are still intact.


We have identified an important deficiency in previous studies and provide a straightforward resolution. Although higher rates of Latino/white intermarriage may indicate more porous group boundaries, the greater instability of these marriages suggests that these boundaries remain resilient.