Does your significant other look like you?

Melody Ng
Analyst
Public Insight Network

Asians are now the fastest-growing immigrant group in the United States, surpassing Latinos. That was the headline from last week’s 225-page Pew Research Center report, The Rise of Asian Americans.

Among media-savvy Asian-Americans, the take-aways from that same report were:

 - mainstream America still doesn’t understand us;
- we’re not the model minority;
- and Asians in America are much more diverse than Pew’s picture*.

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan visited China in December 2011. A recent Pew study included this notable sentence, which prompted one of our latest queries: "When newly minted medical school graduate Priscilla Chan married Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg last month, she joined the 37 percent of all recent Asian-American brides who wed a non-Asian groom." (Photo by AFP | Getty Images)

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan visited China in December 2011. A recent Pew study included this notable sentence, which prompted one of our latest queries: “When newly minted medical school graduate Priscilla Chan married Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg last month, she joined the 37 percent of all recent Asian-American brides who wed a non-Asian groom.” (Photo by AFP | Getty Images)

(Check out a compilation of reactions from some leading Asian-American organizations posted on the blog Angry Asian Man.)

But what caught my attention from the Pew report was this sentence:

“When newly minted medical school graduate Priscilla Chan married Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg last month, she joined the 37 percent of all recent Asian-American brides who wed a non-Asian groom.”

More than one-third of newly married Asian-American women choose non-Asian husbands?  Wow.

I probably shouldn’t be surprised. I’m Chinese. I’ve dated non-Asians. I go to a Chinese church with many Asian-white couples.

Still, one in three???!

Interracial marriage is only half as common  for Asian-American men. Pew found that only 17 percent of Asian-American newlywed men married women who aren’t Asian-American. And, for both sexes among Asian-Americans, it actually declined from 31 percent in 2008 to 28 percent in 2010, according to a 2010 Pew report on “marrying out.”

(Here’s The New York Times’ take on why Asians are marrying more Asians, and another opinion from Tao Jones in The Wall Street Journal.)

Looking at all married Asians in the United States (not just the recently hitched), 15.8 percent were married to non-Asians in 2008, down from 21 percent in 1980.

Interracial marriage by race, 1980-2010

Interracial marriage by race, 1980-2010 (Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center)

Even so, Asian Americans are marrying outside their race more than whites, blacks and Latinos are — and have been doing so for at least the past 30 years.

Interracial marriage became a nationwide right in the United States only 45 years ago with the 1967 Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia, which prevented states from banning couples from marrying on the basis of race.

Now, Americans see interracial marriage as good — or at least neutral.  Only 11 percent call it a change for the worse, says yet another Pew study from earlier this year (yep, I’m all about Pew today).

Pew could not break out the Asian-American opinion on interracial marriage (51 percent of blacks, 48 percent of Latinos, and 40 percent of whites say it’s a good thing) because it didn’t have a large enough sample size.

I’d be interested in hearing that statistic because I know that Asian-American immigrant parents often encourage — or strong-arm, depending on the parent — their children to marry other Asians, and better yet, Asians within their specific ethnic group.

But I’m even more interested in hearing your personal stories about interracial/interethnic dating or marriage. Have you dated someone of a different race or ethnicity? Have your children or grandchildren — or parents? Does race matter in a relationship? Has it in yours?

Take a moment to tell us your story here.

It’d be wonderful to hear from people of all ages, so please encourage (strong-arming not necessary) your father, niece or young neighbor — anyone of a different generation than you — to tell us his or her story, too.

Thanks!

*And for another (more nuanced) snapshot of today’s Asian Americans, try A Community of Contrasts, a fascinating read from the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice.

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Melody Ng Analyst
Public Insight Network

As a Public Insight analyst, Melody Ng's job is all about finding out what people know, and then putting their experience and expertise to work making great news stories. She's particularly interested in getting diverse perspectives and voices into the news. So if you don’t hear people who think or sound like you in the news, then: Tell us what you know here. And come on into our newsroom!

Melody got into journalism through an internship with documentary unit American RadioWorks when looking for a different way to use the skills she had learned through doing science.