Are Mixed-Ethnic Unions More Likely to Dissolve Than Co-Ethnic Unions? New Evidence from Britain

  • Zhiqiang FengEmail author
  • Paul Boyle
  • Maarten van Ham
  • Gillian M. Raab


The increasing proportion of ethnic minorities in Britain has been paralleled by an increase in the occurrence of mixed-ethnic marriages between one White partner and an ethnic minority partner. Such marriages are thought to be at higher risk of divorce, but empirical studies so far have been inconclusive. This paper uses the Office for National Statistics longitudinal study for England and Wales to investigate whether mixed-ethnic unions are more likely to end in divorce than co-ethnic unions. We followed married couples in 1991–2001 and examined their risks of divorce. We found evidence that mixed-ethnic unions have a higher risk of dissolution than co-ethnic unions. However, after controlling for partners’ characteristics, most importantly the younger ages of people in mixed-ethnic unions, the risk of divorce for mixed-ethnic unions was no longer elevated, but lay close to the higher risk found for the two constituent co-ethnic unions.


Mixed-ethnic unions Longitudinal study Divorce Convergence theory Heterogamy effect 

Les unions mixtes sont-elles plus fragiles que les unions entre partenaires de même origine ethnique? Nouveaux résultats pour la Grande-Bretagne


Alors que la présence des minorités ethniques en Grande-Bretagne augmente, on observe un accroissement des mariages mixtes entre un(e) partenaire blanc(he) et un(e) partenaire d’une minorité ethnique. Ces mariages sont réputés plus fragiles, mais les études empiriques menées jusqu’à présent ne sont pas concluantes. A partir des données de l’enquête longitudinale de l’Office national de statistiques pour l’Angleterre et le Pays de Galles, cet article examine si les unions mixtes présentent un risque de divorce plus important que les unions entre partenaires de même origine ethnique. Des couples mariés en 1991 sont suivis jusqu’en 2001 afin d’étudier les risques de divorce. On constate que les unions mixtes présentent des risques de rupture plus élevés que les unions entre partenaires de même origine ethnique. Cependant, une fois contrôlées les autres caractéristiques des partenaires, et plus particulièrement les âges plus jeunes des personnes en union mixte, les risques de divorce pour les unions mixtes ne paraîssent plus si élevés et se rapprochent du risque le plus élevé observé pour les deux types d’union entre partenaires de même origine ethnique étudiés dans cet article.


Unions mixtes Étude longitudinale Divorce Théorie de la convergence Effet de l’hétérogamie 



This research is funded by the ESRC under the Understanding Population Trends and Processes (UPTAP) programme (Award Ref: RES-163-25-0045). The permission of the Office for National Statistics to use the Longitudinal Study is gratefully acknowledged, as is the help provided by the Centre for Longitudinal Study Information & User Support (CeLSIUS), particularly Rachel Stuchbury and Julian Buxton. CeLSIUS is supported by the ESRC Census of Population Programme (Award Ref: RES-348-25-0004). The data from ONS is Crown copyright and reproduced with the permission of the controller of HMSO and Queen’s Printer for Scotland. This study uses research datasets which may not exactly reproduce National Statistics aggregates. The authors alone are responsible for the interpretation of the data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhiqiang Feng
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paul Boyle
    • 1
  • Maarten van Ham
    • 2
  • Gillian M. Raab
    • 1
  1. 1.Longitudinal Studies Centre–Scotland (LSCS), School of Geography & GeosciencesUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK
  2. 2.OTB Research Institute for the Built EnvironmentDelft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands

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