The Real Reason Why Asian Americans Are Outmarrying Less

Writer Jeff Yang wrote in the Wall Street Journal “The Real Reason Why Asian Americans Are Outmarrying Less,” citing a just-released Pew Research Center report. Although Asian Americans are still more likely to outmarry than any other race — a full 28 percent of Asians marrying in 2010 wed a non-Asian spouse — this percentage actually represents a drop from 31 percent in 2008.

Yang writes about one reporter’s theory for this. According to New York Times reporter Rachel Swarns, the reason why younger Asians are choosing to marry other Asians is that they’re experiencing a “resurgence of interest in language and ancestral traditions,” and selecting partners that will help them preserve that precious heritage — particularly spouses who are first-generation immigrants, and thus closer to the original old-world source.

But Yang notes there’s an alternative perspective, a real emerging trend among Asian Americans, almost entirely glossed over by the Times: More Asian Americans seem to be marrying Asian Americans that aren’t their particular flavor of Asian American.

Yang refers to an in-depth analysis by C.N. Le, a professor of sociology at University of Massachusetts–Amherst, who studied Asian American intermarriage and outmarriage statistics and made it available on his public blog, Asian-Nation.org. His research has found that since 2006, the frequency of inter-Asian marriage has risen by more than 8 percent among all Asian Americans, and over 15 percent among Asians raised in the U.S.

“This trend actually points to a much better explanation for declining interracial marriage rates among Asian Americans than the Times’s ‘back to our roots’ rationale: More Asians are marrying Asians because there are more of them around,” wrote Yang.

“… This coincided with travel to Asia, or attending top universities — where there’s a disproportionately high concentration of Asian Americans — or moving to major cities on the East or West Coast, where Asian Americans cluster. And given that the overall Asian American population grew by approximately 46 percent from 2000 to 2010, the fastest of all racial and ethnic groups, this also explains much, but not all of the downtick in Asian interracial marriage: The more Asian fish there are in the Sea of Love, the more likely it is that you’ll net one — though not necessarily one from exactly the same coral reef.”

Research: APIs and African Americans React Differently to Racism

New research is out showing African American and Asian American women react differently to racism. The study, “Bitter Reproach or Sweet Revenge: Cultural Differences in Response to Racism,” was published in the journal, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. The study, highlighted in The Atlantic, suggests that black women are more likely to confront racists directly, while Asian women are more likely to poison them with disgusting-flavored jellybeans.

Researchers Elizabeth Lee and Jose Soto posed this study question: “Previous studies have demonstrated variations in the way people of distinct cultures communicate and manage conflict. Do their reactions to racial slurs differ as well?” Lee and Soto asked Asian and black American women to talk to another person online. The conversation partner was a research assistant trained to make either a racist comment, such as “Dating [blacks/Asians] is for tools who let [blacks/Asians] control them” or a rude comment unrelated to race. The subjects then took part in a supposedly unrelated taste test, for which they chose a jellybean for their conversation partner. The jellybean flavors available ranged from delicious (e.g. cherry, lemon) to “bad-tasting” (e.g. earwax, dirt). The results demonstrated that African-American participants were more likely to directly respond to their racist partners than the Asian American women, who preferred to retaliate in secret by not giving the good jellybeans.

The researchers concluded that our racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds shape how we react to racism. The researchers write, “Our findings are consistent with black women’s cultural heritage, which celebrates the past accomplishments of other black confronters of discrimination, as well as Asian women’s heritage, which advises finding expedient resolutions in the name of peaceful relations.”

Social critics of the study believe the results perpetuate stereotypes and also express concern over the disproportionate number of Asian participants who were born outside of the U.S. (47 percent). Contrast that with the African American participants, of whom only 13.9 percent were born outside of the U.S. In the notes at the end of the study, the researchers state that they found no difference between the results of the American-born Asian women and the foreign-born.

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