The paucity of research on the opposite marital pattern seemed to suggest that all interracial marriages between African Americans and whites, regardless of the sex and race of the spouses, were similar. This was an assumption I seriously questioned given the gender stratification system in the United States. The primary purpose of my research, therefore, was to uncover the differences that exist in the two black-white marital pairings and the significance of this and other findings.
Underlying the primary purpose of this study was my desire to explore whether established social science theories on the nature of interracial marriages capture and explain current marriages. Psychological and sociological theories on interracial marriages from the 1940s through the 1970s focused on the deviant nature of these marriages (Porterfield 1978; Kovel 1970; Drake and Clayton 1962 ). Few researchers focused on the similarities between same-race marriages and interracial marriages (Yancey 2002; Murstein 1986; Gordon 1980 ; Heer 1974; Larsson 1965; Golden 1958; Little 1942). The second purpose of my study, then, was to update past research on the nature and character of black-white marriages.
In the United States, “race” is still an important consideration in selecting a marital partner. This can be easily discerned by comparing the degree of ethnic diversity in the American population vis-à-vis the percentage of interracial marriages. According to Macionis (2005), the African, Asian, and Native American populations constitute about 17 percent of the U.S. population, and if people ignored “race” in selecting their spouses, one could expect approximately 14 percent of marriages to be interracial ones. The actual percentage of all interracial marriages in the United States, however, hovers around 3 percent, with the category of “white and any race other than white or black marriages” constituting the largest number of these marriages, and black-white interracial marriages comprising less than 1 percent (U.S. Bureau of the Census 2006).