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Explaining Race and Ethnic Variation in Marriage: Directions for Future Research

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Abstract

Racial and ethnic differentials in marriage are large and may contribute to maintaining inequalities. Previous research identifies economic factors, particularly low levels of employment stability and earnings, as important contributors to depressed marriage rates among blacks. Yet group differences in employment and earnings do not offer sufficient explanations for race and ethnic variation in marriage patterns—a fact which is not surprising given that marriage represents far more than an economic relationship. Future research in this area should consider other factors that distinguish marriage from other couple relationships, such as commitment, sexual fidelity, and trust. Moreover, it should recognize that marriage is a social institution that shapes social interactions ranging from informal relationships with family members to eligibility for formal benefits such as health insurance. We argue that taking a broader view of marriage will help identify new approaches to understanding race and ethnic variation in marriage patterns.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful for the support we received from “Designing New Models for Explaining Family Change and Variation,” National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Contract N01 HD-3-3354 and for helpful comments from Pamela Smock, Suzanne Bianchi, and other “Romantic Unions” conference participants on an earlier version of this paper.

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Raley, R.K., Sweeney, M.M. Explaining Race and Ethnic Variation in Marriage: Directions for Future Research. Race Soc Probl 1, 132–142 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-009-9013-3

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