The Impact of Intermarriage on Ethnic and Racial Stratification

Barbara S. Okun, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Orna Khait-Marelly, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

We investigate macro-level implications of ethnic/racial intermarriage on ethnic/racial inequality in subsequent generations. In our model, effects of ethnic intermarriage on stratification are thought to operate through the intergenerational transmissions of socioeconomic status and ethnicity. If ethnic intermarriage is selective on the basis of spousal SES, then intermarriage may increase socioeconomic gaps among primary ethnic groups. Thus, the model's predictions may contrast with those of assimilation and melting pot theories, which suggest that ethnic intermarriage reduces the social distance between ethnic groups. We illustrate the model implications using data on young Jewish adults in Israel. We investigate educational gaps that might have arisen in a variety of counterfactual scenarios in which past ethnic intermarriage had not occurred. Analyses suggest that 10-15% of actual ethnic gaps in educational attainment is attributable to past ethnic intermarriage. Moreover, in the absence of intermarriage, intergenerational decreases in inequality would have been substantially more pronounced.

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Presented in Session 122: Race/Ethnicity and Social and Economic Inequality