Interracial Couples Have Lower Fertility Rates on Average, Qian Finds

April 16, 2021

PSTC sociologist and Associate Director Zhenchao Qian has co-authored a new article in Journal of Marriage and Family examining the fertility rates of American interracial couples. Qian, with fellow sociologist and longtime collaborator Daniel Lichter of Cornell, expanded upon their previous research on racially exogamous relationships by examining data from the 2008-2017 American Community Survey and comparing the fertility patterns of racially endogamous and interracial couples. 

“Interracial marriage and cohabitation (unions) have been increasing over time, but we know very little about their fertility behavior,” notes Qian. “As interracial unions may generate opposition and receive less social support from families and friends, it is likely that their fertility may be lower than same-race couples. Indeed, our research shows that fertility rates among interracial couples were significantly lower than among racially endogamous couples.”

The study also found that fertility patterns vary between racial pairings, with particularly low rates found among Asian American-White couples and comparatively higher rates for American Indian-White couples. These rates also varied by gender, with White male/Black female and White male/Hispanic female couples following the fertility patterns of White couples, and Black male/White female couples and Hispanic male/White female couples following the fertility patterns of endogamous Black and Hispanic couples respectively. 

“It is important to point out that our results do not show the unidirectional influences of white partners on non-white partners. We don’t have direct measures to examine how racial discrimination may play a role,” says Qian. “But we do see strong gender and racial differences, reflective of the stigma attached to different racial and ethnic groups. We find that higher levels of fertility among interracial couples that involved white women and their black or Hispanic male partners than those that involved white men, highlighting gender dynamics across different racial paintings.” 

The authors note that the increasing ubiquity of interracial unions makes this research crucial to understanding the modern marriage market. Their conclusions aim to describe how childbearing decisions are faring in light of this increased social integration. 

“I am not sure of policy implications, but the children born to interracial couples have fueled the growth of American’s multiracial populations, altered the trajectory of America’s ethnoracial makeup, and blurred ethnoracial boundaries,” reflects Qian.