Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The unrecognized ethnic group

This graph from Pew shows the religion of one's partner or spouse. Ethnocentrism is often discussed on this blog, but the religious aspect of it is usually left out. I've presented evidence in other posts that the following groups have above-average levels of ethnocentrism: blacks, Mexican Americans, Jews, Chinese Americans, and Asian Indians. In addition to a feeling of race, boundaries are also supported by religion in some groups; various Baptist and AME denominations for blacks; Catholicism for Mex-Ams; and various Jewish denominations for Jews.

As you can see in the graph, Hindus are very likely to marry each other, but it's more complicated than that. According to the GSS, only 19% of Indian Americans are Hindu (the modal category is Protestant--27%). Chinese Americans also lack a common religion: the largest group is people with no religion--44%.

But next is the interesting part: the unrecognized ethnic group--Mormons. There is a core whose family members have been intermarrying for several generations. Sure, they get lots of converts, but they lose a lot, too.

Many Mormons do genealogy and know their family trees and are always running into members who have a common polygamous great grandfather or some such connection. A large share of early converts were New Englanders, Englishmen, or Scandanavians, and their descendants have practiced endogamy for more than 150 years. Amy Adams who grew up Mormon has got the look.

American Mormons don't see themselves as an ethnic group, at least in the sense of blood. They have a strong sense of history, but it's a thought of as a religious connection. Theirs is a universalist religion. They won't end up like Jews. They think of those millions of Latino, Asian, and African members around the world as part of the family. They are very serious about marrying fellow members, but it doesn't matter much what a person's race is. Like with white Americans in general, though, marrying another white person is the rule (unless a missionary meets a brown hottie in the field).

The reality and future for the church seems to be a white core leading an increasingly multi-ethnic and multi-national organization. Like Catholics. Only on a smaller scale. And without fashion sense. And with bishops who get to reproduce like rabbits.


Razib said...

1) i'm 95% sure that the 19% "hindu" is off for the GSS (the N for the indian americans isn't too large last i checked).

0.4% of the population is hindu + sikh in the 2008 religious identification survey

0.4% of the population is hindu in pew religious landscape

the vast majority of these are indian americans, whose high bound estimate in the last american community survey is 0.8% of the american population. 50% hindu for indian americans is probably the floor, which is my experience with american born people of indian ethnicity. my *personal* experience has been closer to 60% hindu, 20% sikh, 15% christian, 5% muslim. might not be typical, but the GSS is off here.

2) my personal experience with mormons (growing up with them) is that they're actually moderately race conscious. the mormon leadership is REALLY OLD, and many of them advise against interracial marriage because they think it will reduce the probability of success of that marriage. there isn't religious injunction against it, but that's my personal experience with a lot of white mormons from the intermontane west. there's especially an issue with black people because of the whole mark of cain stuff, which i know they don't officially believe in anymore but it persists in mormon folklore.

OneSTDV said...

For the Jewish stats, I've heard for years, American Jews marry out of the tribe about 50 percent of the time.

This conflicts with your data unless the extra 19% is due to conversion. I believe this is very common with Jewish interfaith marriages. The non-Jewish partner agrees to convert and raise the children Jews (that way, the Jewish population numbers don't decrease).

silly girl said...

Jewish intermarriage rates sorted by reform, conservative, orthodox etc. in a chart from data from the National Jewish Population Survey:


Ron Guhname said...

"0.4% of the population is hindu + sikh in the 2008 religious identification survey"

Most of the "other" category must be Sikhs. This category is 25% of the total (N = 189) and if added to Hindu it equals 44%.

But you might still be right.

The Undiscovered Jew said...

Are Mormons more likely to cheat on their spouse than Southern Baptists?

In light of today's news that 2012 presidential hopeful Mark Sanford has been cheating on his wife with some smokin' hot Argentine babe, I'll note that the Mormon, Mitt Romney has not been unfaithful to his wife.

Anonymous said...


There's a gigantic religious group absent from your chart. The group is a gigantic force in the world.

And they are not Mormons.

But the name of the group does begin with an "M".

Are we supposed to assume that the actual unrecognized group here in question (not the phony unrecognized Mormon group) is understood to have a 100% rate of endogamy? Is that it?

Iductivist: You're remiss for not mentioning the gigantic group that went unrecognized by Pew. Way to go. Nice post you genius blogger.

Anonymous said...

Of course, the world just lost its only trans-ethnic person.

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