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Monday, July 04, 2005

Rice Chasin'

Via a comment of Razib's at this post on Abiola Lapite's site, I found this study of patterns of interracial marriage among Asian-Americans, focusing on the different rates among men and women for Americans of Indian, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, and Vietnamese heritage. Obviously, I am a sucker for all types of demographic information, and there's a fair amount to sink your teeth into here.

For the purposes of this post, I am going to be looking at Asian-white relations, as they are the most common form of inter-racial relations among Asian-Americans.

Unsurprisingly, there are big gender and ethnic differences, particularly among the 'American-raised generation', those Asian-Americans who were born in the US or arrived as children. The only group where out marriage rates showed little gender differentiation was among Indian-Americans, among whom men and women tended to marry in-group and to other Asians, whites, blacks, and Hispanics at roughly the same rates. The out marriage rate for the American-raised generation of both male and female Indian-Americans is about 30%, which is lower than the other groups studied in the survey, except for the Vietnamese. To be honest, I can't seem to find much data as to why this is the case, so I'm going off into speculation here (if you disagree with my thoughts, by all means let us have at it in the comments!), but I have a few ideas as to why the inter-marriage situation of Indians in America is so different from East Asians. I would guess that part of it is that the two groups, despite the identity mavens lumping all Asians together into the unwieldy group of 'Asian and Pacific Islander Americans', are perceived quite differently within America. More specifically, because of their small numbers (only about 2 million, a drop in the sea of the 300 million or so people in the United States), I don't think that the rest of American society holds many sexual preconceptions about South Asians, in the same way that East Asian women are sometimes seen as submissive and passive.

One of the major complaints of activist-type East Asian men in America is that American popular culture presents them as small-dicked, somewhat effeminate, asexual nerds. I am not entirely convinced by this thesis; surely if you asked most white girls about what they thought of when they thought of Asian men in film, surely kung-fu movies would come up as the stereotype of choice? I've always thought of martial arts movie stars like Bruce Lee, Jet Li, and Jackie Chan as coming across as at least as masculine and hard-assed as white masters of the art of 'blow up everything in sight' like Ahnold and Sly Stallone. Anyways, to the extent that this is true, I would argue that the absence of any similar images of South Asian men in American popular culture (or any images, really) means that they face no penalty from popular culture. There is also the fact that phenotypically South Asians are closer to Europeans, which, I would guess, makes them seem less physically 'exotic' than East Asians to the average white American, which I would argue helps explain the more or less non-existent out marriage gap among Indian-American men and women. Again, though, this is mostly speculation, so we can repair to the comments section to hash this out. After all, what's the point of blogging if you can't opine on whatever you feel like?

Anyways, the situation is quite different among the various East Asian ethnic groups, all of whom have sizeable imbalances in out marriage rates, with the women of all of these groups considerably more likely to 'marry out' than men. The higher propensity for East Asian women to date and marry inter-racially, particularly with white Americans, than their male counterparts has been the cause of much wringing of hands among the young Asian-American Left in recent years. If you spend any time poking around websites devoted to Asian-American issues, you will frequently encounter angry rants about 'rice chasers' - white guys who date Asian women - and anguished cries about Asian-American women 'selling out'. White men in such relationships are often believed to have a racist fetish for Asian women as simultaneously demure/passive and oversexed, while the women are believed to have been brainwashed by Hollywood into believing that only in the arms of a white man can they find happiness.

This sounds extreme, but beyond the hyperbolic rhetoric to what degree do these sort of theories accurately reflect reality? Well, I can't speak for myself here, as I've never dated anyone who wasn't white, but I've had white friends who've dated Asian girls, and none of them were into Asian girls exclusively, or seemed to express any weird ideas about the girls in question (or any more than they would say weird stuff about other girls I'd known them to date!). This is anecdotal evidence, though, and I figure there must be an element of truth to the fears of the activist types. Why? Well, look at the numbers.

Here are the marriage percentages for American-raised Asian men:

Chinese women - 64.5%
Other Asian women - 12.7%
White women - 19.3%

Filipino women - 49.6%
Other Asian women - 12.6%
White women - 28.1%

Japanese women - 62.7%
Other Asian women - 13.9%
White women - 19.7%

Korean women - 63.2%
Other Asian women - 9.2%
White women - 23.9%

Vietnamese women - 72.7%
Other Asian women - 11.7%
White women - 11.3%

And here are the numbers for American-raised Asian women:

Chinese men - 55%
Other Asian men - 10.8%
White men - 29.9%

Filipino men - 37%
Other Asian men - 9.2%
White men - 40.5%

Japanese men - 56.2%
Other Asian men - 11.2%
White men - 28.1%

Korean men - 40%
Other Asian men - 7.5%
White men - 48%

Vietnamese men - 66.8%
Other Asian men - 7.1%
White men - 22.7%

As you can see from these raw numbers there is a sizeable gender disparity in out marriage rates in each of these ethnic groups, ranging from Japanese-American men only being 70.1% as likely as their female counterparts to marry whites down to Korean- and Vietnamese-American men only being about half as likely as their female counterparts to marry whites.

So, what's causing this disparity? Is the 'societally castrated' Asian-American man being shut out by white women or is it just that Asian women are particularly popular? I actually think that it's the latter. If you look at the results from the 2000 Census only 6% of married black men had a white wife, a rate that is not much different, and in some cases quite a bit lower, than the rates for the men of the various Asian ethnic groups in question. When you look at US-raised Asians you see that the out marriage rates for men to white women are considerably higher than among African-Americans. This is probably a better comparison when thinking about Asian intermarriage, as the black community in America has a far lower proportion of the foreign-born than Asians. Even when taking into account that about 15% of black men are in relationships with white women, this is still lower than the marriage rates for US-raised Asian men of all groups except for Vietnamese-Americans, and when you take into account unmarried cohabitation rates, where 26% of unmarried Asian-American men cohabit with white women, I think it is hard to defend the thesis that Asian-American men are uniquely penalized for their ethnicity in terms of having access to interracial partners.

|| RPH || 10:20 AM || |