Sunday, June 13, 2010

More on intermarriage

In the last post, reader Jim Bowery correctly pointed out that greater disapproval by older whites compared to younger whites of a relative marrying someone from another race might reflect the tendency for people to become more conservative as they age.

Fortunately, the General Social Survey has longitudinal data. Participants were asked: "What about having a close relative marry a black person? Would you be in very favor of it happening (1), somewhat in favor (2), neither in favor nor opposed to it happening (3), somewhat opposed (4), or very opposed to it happening (5)?

The table displays the mean attitude for different age groups measured at three different times: 1990, 2000, and 2008.

You can see two major patterns. First, as we saw in the last post, measured at any specific time, disapproval is stronger among older whites (just look down the columns). Second, if you look along the rows, you can that that approval grew among most age groups over time. The only expections to this are the two youngest groups over the 2000-2008 period: their level of approval remained stable. 

So approval has generally grown over time, and younger cohorts start out with more approving averages than older cohorts. 

But notice that, compared to Pew's numbers, these estimates do not make whites look so gung-ho about a close relative outmarrying. The average (2.73) of the most liberal group in the table--people who are now in their 30s--is much closer to neutral than "somewhat in favor." Most of the groups are currently between neutral and "somewhat opposed."

It seems to me that asking about favoring or not favoring the marriage is more revealing than asking "if you would be fine with it." (By the way, each cell is at least 100 cases).      

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