Why Have Interracial Marriages Shot Up Since 1997?

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?


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn’t fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation so we can keep on doing the type of journalism that 2018 demands.

Donate Now