Why Have Interracial Marriages Shot Up Since 1997?

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Alex Tabarrok pointed today to a paper that caught my eye. In it, the authors offer an explanation for why interracial marriages, which had been increasing at a steady rate for decades, suddenly accelerated in the mid-90s. Their answer: the rise of online dating played a big role.

The reasons for this are a little complicated, and you can read the paper if you’re interested. However, here’s the basic chart that motivates the analysis. It shows the percentage of interracial marriages among newlyweds:

This is interesting, and I don’t really have any special reason to doubt the online-dating hypothesis. But there’s an odd thing: the trendline accelerates first in the mid-90s, and then accelerates again around 2007. (The red line is my eyeball trendline.) So does that mean online dating also accelerated in 2007? It turns out the answer is no:

At the very moment that online dating plateaued among hetero couples, the growth rate of interracial marriages took a big jump, from 0.35 percent per year to 0.58 percent per year. This doesn’t fit the online-dating model.

So either it’s wrong or it’s incomplete. If it’s incomplete, it means something happened around 2007 in addition to online dating that caused a big jump in the number of interracial marriages. What do you suppose it could be? An Obama effect? A Facebook effect? Something else?

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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