Working Paper No. 312 | August 2000

Demographic Outcomes of Ethnic Intermarriage in American History

Italian-Americans through Four Generations

This paper presents a new approach to measuring the extent of intermarriage among Americans of different ethnic origins. Using Census Bureau microdata and CPS data, measurements of the rates of Italian-American intermarriages across four generations are made to demonstrate that these rates were not merely high following the immigrant generation, but that even low estimates of intermarriage rates will produce high proportions of descendants of mixed origin. Extended asides show (1) how high proportions of Italian-immigrant men could in-marry despite the severe gender imbalance in the immigrant population, and (2) the importance of studying the proportion of immigrant arrivals who came to this country as children and the ambiguous generational status not just of these individuals (the '1.5 generation') but of their children ('2.5'?). Finally, the paper concludes by emphasizing the significance of the results for assimilation among past and future immigrants, the concept of generations, and current-day projections about the future racial composition of the United States.

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