Most studies of racial intermarriage rely on the prevalence of intermarriage to measure the strength of group boundaries, without scrutinizing the nature of intermarriage pairings. Examination of intermarried couples’ characteristics reveals (1) that intermarriages and endogamous marriages follow different patterns, and (2) that intermarriage pairings for some groups reflect a generalized racial status hierarchy. According to evidence from the 1990 U.S. Census PUMS, patterns in blacks’ and Mexican Americans’ marriages with whites suggest that a generalized racial status hierarchy disadvantages members of these minority groups. For marriages between Japanese Americans and whites, however, crossing the group boundary does not affect couples’ characteristics.

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