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Ethnicity & Identity

Focus on Ethnicity & IdentityInter-ethnic Marriage
2% of marriages are inter-ethnic


Married couples: by whether or not they are in an inter-ethnic marriage, April 2001, England & Wales
Married couples: by whether or not they are in an inter-ethnic marriage, April 2001, England & Wales
Inter-ethnic marriages form a very small proportion of all marriages in England and Wales as a whole - 2 per cent.

There were 10.3 million married couples in England and Wales on census day in 2001. The vast majority of these marriages, 98 per cent, were between people from the same ethnic background, where ethnic background is defined as White, Mixed, Asian, Black, Chinese, or Other ethnic group.

Two per cent of marriages were between people from different ethnic backgrounds (219,000). Of these inter-ethnic marriages, most (198,000) included a White person. In the remaining 21,000 inter-ethnic marriages both partners were from different minority ethnic backgrounds.

The most common inter-ethnic marriages were between White and Mixed race people, 26 per cent of all inter-ethnic marriages. Marriages between a White person and someone who described their ethnic group as ‘Other’ were the next most common (15 per cent), followed by White and Black Caribbean marriages (12 per cent), and White and Indian marriages (11 per cent).

Percentage of married people in inter-ethnic marriages, by ethnic group and sex, April 2001, England & Wales
Percentage of married people in inter-ethnic marriages, by ethnic group and sex, April 2001, England & Wales


People from the Mixed ethnic group were the most likely to be married to someone outside their ethnic group (78 per cent). The Mixed ethnic group is relatively small and there are limited opportunities to marry someone from the same ethnic group. However, mixed race people are often married to someone from a related ethnic group. For example, among men who described their own ethnic group as ‘Mixed - White and Black Caribbean’, 76 per cent were married to White women, 8 per cent to Black Caribbean women and 11 per cent to ‘Mixed – White and Black Caribbean’ women.

Among people who described their ethnic group as ‘Other’, 56 per cent of women and 34 per cent of men had married outside their ethnic group and most had married a White person. This Other group includes people from the Philippine Islands, Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam and various middle-eastern countries.

People who described their ethnic group as ‘Other Black’, largely young Black people born in Britain, were the next most likely to be married to someone outside their ethnic group, followed by Black Caribbean people. Almost five in ten Other Black men (48 per cent) and three in ten Black Caribbean men (29 per cent) were married to women outside the Black ethnic group, in most cases White women.

People from South Asian backgrounds were the least likely of the minority ethnic groups to be married to someone from a different ethnic group. Only 6 per cent of Indians, 4 per cent of Pakistanis, and 3 per cent of Bangladeshis had married someone outside the Asian group. As well as cultural and racial differences, people from South Asian backgrounds generally have different religions to people from other ethnic groups which may explain their relatively low inter-marriage rate. People who described their ethnicity as ‘Other Asian’ were more likely to have married a non-Asian person (18 per cent).

Although most inter-ethnic marriages include a White person, White people are the least likely to be married to someone outside their ethnic group – only 1 per cent of White men or women had done so. White people form the majority population in England and Wales (91 per cent) and consequently there are limited opportunities to marry people from a minority ethnic group. This is particularly true for people living outside London, where the minority ethnic population is often very small.

Patterns of inter-ethnic marriage were similar for men and women. Exceptions were that Black women were less likely than Black men to have married outside their ethnic group, and Chinese women were more likely than Chinese men to have done so.
Source: Census, April 2001, Office for National Statistics

Notes:

Inter-ethnic marriages are defined as marriages between people from different aggregate ethnic groups, where the ethnic group categories are: White, Mixed, Asian, Black, Chinese, Other ethnic group. For example, a White British person married to someone from a non-White ethnic group or a Pakistani person married to someone from a non-Asian ethnic group.

Only married couples are covered by this analysis. Co-habiting couples are excluded.
Published on 21 March 2005 at 9:30 am


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