Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 261–299 | Cite as

Conducive Characteristics or Anti-Racist Context? Decomposing the Reasons for Veterans’ High Likelihood of Interracial Marriage

  • Rachel M. Shattuck
  • Meredith A. Kleykamp


Over the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, veterans have been more likely to enter into race/ethnic intermarriages than non-veterans. Theories of race/ethnic intermarriage variously point to how minority race/ethnicity, race/ethnically diverse social settings, progressive racial attitudes, and high socioeconomic status increase individuals’ likelihood of intermarrying. Veterans’ unique racial and socioeconomic characteristics may contribute to their greater likelihood of intermarrying relative to non-veterans: larger percentages of veterans than non-veterans are members of racial and ethnic minority groups, while military service increases individual service members’ long-term economic and educational prospects. At the same time, veterans share in common their exposure to the unique military environment, which may increase their likelihood of intermarriage by diversifying their social circles, and subjecting their attitudes and behavior to group norms that are more explicitly egalitarian than those of society at large. The present study considers these two possible explanations for veterans’ greater likelihood of intermarriage. We use data on seven cohorts of men over six decades in the Current Population Survey, representing a total of 1,456,742 observations, to decompose the difference in likelihood of racial intermarriage between veterans and non-veterans among married men aged 18–65. We find that across cohorts and decades, veterans’ greater likelihood of intermarrying is not fully explained by their race/ethnic and socioeconomic composition. We argue that veterans’ greater likelihood of intermarrying may therefore be driven by their exposure to the military environment.


Interracial marriage Military Veterans Decomposition 



We are grateful for helpful comments and suggestions from Melissa Kearney, Michael Rendall, Liana Sayer, and Wei-hsin Yu, from two anonymous reviewers, and from participants at the Population Association of America 2015 annual meeting. We are also grateful for support from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development under population research infrastructure grant R24-HD41041 and from the National Science Foundation under award SES-1225588.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 12 kb)
11113_2017_9454_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (24 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (XLSX 24 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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