AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
To the degree that more individuals are entering into interracial romantic relationships (Brown, 1987; Brown 1989-1990; Porterfield, 1982), it is important to study these relationships. Census data has indicated a small increase of all interracial marriages in the United States from 1980 to 1987 (Spigner, 1994). Yet, interracial relationships still remain discouraged in modern American society (Moe, Nacoste, & Insko, 1981; Spickard, 1989). This article will contribute to the developing literature on interracial relationships by examining individuals who enter into interracial relationships despite society's disapproval. It is an attempt to find potential differences between partner expectations that individuals seeking interracial relationships may have versus those who adhere to racial endogamous norms. Although other studies have concentrated on married couples, this study will examine individuals who are attempting to form premarital relationships.
THEORIES ON THE FORMATION OF INTERRACIAL RELATIONSHIPS
The decisions of individuals who enter into romantic relationships are not made in a vacuum. Societal forces, such as endogamy, have been acknowledged as powerful influences on these personal choices (Dresser, 1980; Knox, 1975; Morgan,1981; Murstein, 1986). Endogamy is defined as the tendency to marry within one's own social group. Thus, racial endogamy can be conceptualized as the tendency to marry within one's own race. Racial endogamy, especially between Blacks and Whites, has had a particularly strong influence in the United States (Davidson, 1991-1992; Kalmijn, 1993; Lewis & Yancey, 1995). The way in which societal forces shape the motivations of individuals who enter into interracial relationships has generated debate. Merton (1941) and Davis (1941) advocated a theory of hypogamy. They argued that because African American men belong to a lower racial caste in society, they trade personal assets, such as money or physical attractiveness, for the higher racial status of a White woman. Work by Homans (1961) and Blau (1964) forms the basis of social exchange theory, which predicts that relationship formation is based on the perceived rewards a potential partner can offer in a relationship. General exchange theory predicts that, given the differential status of Whites and racial minorities, a White individual will enter into a relationship with a racial minority only if the minority group member has a surplus of some quality (money, physical attractiveness, social skills, etc.) that allows the White individual to be adequately compensated for accepting the lower status of the racial minority. Because traditional marriage exchange encourages men to offer financial status and women to offer physical beauty (Elder, 1969), caste and exchange theory may postulate that majority group men would be inclined to heavily emphasize the physical attractiveness of a mate of a different race, whereas majority group women emphasize financial stability.
Some theorists point to assimilation and demographic factors to explain the rise of interracial unions. They suggest that unbalanced sex ratios can lead individuals within given geographic regions to marry out of their racial groups (Lehman, 1991; Parrillo, 1997, p. 270; Spickard, 1989). Others have noted that the longer groups live together, the more assimilation will take place (Blum, 1984; Hurh & Kim, 1983; Neidert & Farley, 1985). Interracial marriage may be seen as the last natural step toward total assimilation between diverse racial groups (Allport, 1979; Spickard, 1989). Demographic and assimilation theories emphasize the same factors in mate selection as those who marry within their own race. Because recent increases in the number of interracial relationships may be the result of higher interaction of different races and the lowering of social sanctions against interracial relations, it can be argued that interracial couples develop for the same reasons as homogeneous couples (Brown, 1987; Davidson, 1991-1992; Lewis & Yancey, 1994; Porterfield, 1978).
Empirical evidence concerning this debate is mixed. On one hand, Pavela (1964) finds that individuals who interracially marry tend to come from the same social class, whereas Monahan (1976) finds that Whites in interracial relationships are more likely than Blacks to marry a person of a lower occupational status. However, Kalmijn (1993) finds evidence for the caste theory by analyzing data found on marriage licenses. Kalmijn reports that education is positively correlated with the tendency to interracially marry among Blacks and negatively correlated among Whites. This is supportive of caste theory, as lower educated Whites may trade their racial status for the educational status of their Black partner.
To date, research has only examined married interracial couples. Yet, the priorities of Whites, as predicted by exchange or caste theory, can only be studied by examining the formation of interracial relationships during courtship. To this end, examining the expectations of individuals who enter into interracial relationships at the point of initiation can help determine whether status considerations play a significant role in relationship formation.
Although factors that are important in the formation of dating relationships are not always the same as those that are important …