interracial / interethnic marriage rates up in u.s.

from a new pew survey:

– About 15% of all new marriages in the United States in 2010 were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another, more than double the share in 1980 (6.7%). Among all newlyweds in 2010, 9% of whites, 17% of blacks, 26% of Hispanics and 28% of Asians married out. Looking at all married couples in 2010, regardless of when they married, the share of intermarriages reached an all-time high of 8.4%.

– Gender patterns in intermarriage vary widely. About 24% of all black male newlyweds in 2010 married outside their race, compared with just 9% of black female newlyweds…. Intermarriage rates among white and Hispanic newlyweds do not vary by gender.

– [W]hite/Asian newlyweds of 2008 through 2010 have significantly higher median combined annual earnings ($70,952) than do any other pairing, including both white/white ($60,000) and Asian/Asian ($62,000). When it comes to educational characteristics, more than half of white newlyweds who marry Asians have a college degree, compared with roughly a third of white newlyweds who married whites. Among Hispanics and blacks, newlyweds who married whites tend to have higher educational attainment than do those who married within their own racial or ethnic group.

– Couples formed between an Asian husband and a white wife topped the median earning list among all newlyweds in 2008-2010 ($71,800)…. As for white female newlyweds, those who married a Hispanic or black husband had somewhat lower combined earnings than those who “married in,” while those who married an Asian husband had significantly higher combined earnings.

– Intermarriage in the United States tilts West. About one-in-five (22%) of all newlyweds in Western states married someone of a different race or ethnicity between 2008 and 2010, compared with 14% in the South, 13% in the Northeast and 11% in the Midwest.

– Several studies using government data have found that overall divorce rates are higher for couples who married out than for those who married in….

looks like a big report. lots to read. and data, too (state-by-state even)!

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exogamous marriage in northern medieval italy

in looking for an explanation for why democracy today works better in northern as opposed to southern italy, putnam, et. al., point to the long history of civic behavior in northern italy, stretching back to the middle ages, in contrast to the feudal system of southern italy which lasted really into the 1800s [pg. 130]:

“In the North the crucial social, political, and even religious allegiances and alignments were horizontal, while those in the South were vertical. Collaboration, mutual assistance, civic obligation, and even trust — not universal, of course, but extending further beyond the limits of kinship than anywhere else in Europe in this era — were the distinguishing features in the North. The chief virtue in the South, by contrast, was the imposition of hierarchy and order on latent anarchy.”

in other words, northern italy was full of republican communes, while the south was run from the top down by the monarch.

medieval communes were a type of corporate society, but you can’t have a corporate society if you have clans or tribes or any sort of extended families produced by extensive inbreeding. you need a good deal of outbreeding to get the republican communes that putnam talks about. you need to have a society full of individuals looking out for their own best interests, and those of their immediate family (wife, children), as opposed to a society of extended families or clans or tribes looking out for the interests of their whole group. then, because of the effects of inbreeding on the evolution of social behaviors, you get clan vs. clan, not individuals coming together in guilds to promote their profession or mutal aid societies.

so, what were the mating patterns of northern and southern italians during the medieval period?

i don’t have any info (yet) for southern italy, but samuel kline cohn, jr., in Marriage in the Mountains, 1348-1500 (pg. 174+), finds that the marriage system of the people in the areas surrounding florence was very exogamous in the late-fourteenth and fifteenth centuries — a full three-quarters of the people married outside their parish, and just about half married beyond the pieve, a secular district larger than, and encompassing, the parishes. to me, that sounds potentially more exogamous than nineteenth and twentieth century rural greece in which the people had a preference for marrying within their village or to someone in a neighboring village. it was certainly much more exogamous than marriage patterns in twentieth century sicily and other parts of southern italy.

kline cohn doesn’t examine cousin marriages, but i think it’s safe to say that marriages over greater geographic distances (his “cross-boundary marriages,” for instance) are prolly unlikely to represent any close inbreeding. his data, btw, relates mostly to peasants:

pg. 192:

“The marriage records for the mountains of the early Renaissance in the territory of Florence do not highlight isolated communities, hollows of cultural and biological endogamy. Rather, it was in the plains near the city that one-third of those sampled married within their own parish….

“When the second geographical rung is considered — that of the pieve or the newer secular districts — little difference appears between these three regions. But a glance at a map shows that such intermarriages in the mountains could cover considerably more distance than in the smaller pievi of the plains surrounding the city of Florence….”

so, that’s one example of quite exogamous marriage patterns in northern medieval italy.

previously: democracy in italy

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ethiopia notes

since ihtg pointed out that at least some ethiopians — including ethiopian jews — have a tradition of avoiding any close-cousin marriages (out to sixth cousins!), i’ve been trying to read up on the ethiopians.

it seems to have been the amhara who started this tradition in ethiopia — or, at least, the other groups who also practice “generation counting” picked it up from the amhara via a general ongoing amharization process that happened throughout ethiopia over the centuries. the amhara are the ethnic group that have been the most literate and have produced the most royals throughout ethiopian history. they have been the bearers of ethiopia’s high culture.

my questions are:

– for how long have the amhara/other ethiopian groups been practising such strong cousin-marriage avoidance?
– how is the practice enforced?
– are they endogamous in some other way, like the greeks avoiding the nearest cousins but marrying locally, or do they marry completely exogamously? do they keep marrying within their kin-group, or do they marry completely out of their kin-group?
– and, what is amharan society like? is it open, individualistic, trusting? or is it closed, clannish, hostile? is there any evidence here to support the idea that outbreeding leads to more a more open society, or is that idea totally bunk?

the following are just some notes based on what i’ve read in the last day or so, so it’s obviously not the final word on the matter!

the rule for counting out seven generations to determine whom one can marry is part of the ethiopian (amharan) law code, the fetha negest [pg. 134, pg. 10 of the pdf], which was compiled in 1240 by an egyptian copt and later adopted in ethiopia in 1450. so, if the first introduction of this seven generation rule only goes back to 1450 — well, that’s pretty far back, but it doesn’t compare to the 400s for european tribes. in this scenario, the european tribes would’ve had a one thousand year headstart, give or take a few hundred years here and there. (if you haven’t been following along, it’s more complicated than that. see the Inbreeding in Europe series down below in the left-hand column for more details.)

christianity, though, has been around in ethiopia for much longer than that. it became the official state religion in 330 a.d., but there were probably christians in the region even earlier. and the church in ethiopia had long been tied to the coptic church in egypt, so if the seven generations thing was present in egypt earlier (and it seems to have at least been talked about as early as 1240), then perhaps it was present in ethiopia before 1450 as well. difficult to know.

in any case, the seven generations thing does seem to have been introduced to the ethiopians from the copts in egypt (unless it was a general egyptian/ethiopian practice that was just codified in the 1200s in egypt), so i’m guessing that it was not an indigenous ethiopian practice.

how is this seven generations thing enforced? by tradition, it seems. marriage in ethiopia is generally not a religious affair, i.e. most people traditionally did not get married in the church. royals and some aristocracy did, but not peasants [pg. 795]:

“Although it is generally agreed that the Amhara and the Tegranna-speakers recognize several different forms of legitimate marriage, observers are unanimous in reporting that marriage as a sacrament performed within the church … was rare compared to the various other options. Among the comparatively few who choose this option are priests and their spouses. It is also found among elderly couples, who have been married in another form of ceremony and celebrate a church wedding when they realize that they will not divorce or re-marry.

“Samanya is marriage by a civil contract, and is the generally preferred form. Although it is in accord with the law of the Church, and the agreement between the families may be followed by a religious ceremony, and official Church ceremony whether Orthodox or other is rare.”

so, at least in modern times, the out-marrying regulation has not been enforced by the church, unlike the ban on cousin-marriage by the catholic and, later, protestant churches in europe. in europe, it would’ve been difficult, if not impossible, to marry various cousins (depending on the time period) without permission from the church. in ethiopia, nowadays anyways, the church is not the enforcer.

divorce and re-marriage — and affairs — are also rampant in ethiopia. how long this has been the case, i don’t know. is the seven generation thing followed in all these instances? or just in the case of first-marriages? on divorce in ethiopia [pg. 797]:

“Many authors have commented on the instability of marriage in Ethiopia. This appears to be due to a combination of cultural and historical circumstances. Marriage may often end in divorce because the couple themselves often have little say in the choice of spouses. On the other hand, later marriage may be fragile bonds, because there is little family involvement and hence little pressure to maintain the union.”

so, what’s amharan society like [pg. 231]?:

“Traditional Amhara social structure took the form of a peasant society. Agriculturalists subsist on the ox-drawn plough-cultivation of cereal grains and herding of livestock…. They live in households that function as a unit of political economy, an oikos, rather than a kinship unit. Its members each carry out specific tasks assigned according to gender and other status markers, all under the authority of a single senior male. Each household lives in a compound containing a small number of round buildings built of wattle or stone, capped with conical thatched roofs. Homesteads usually are located on land worked by the peasant, though often a number of them group into hamlets.

“Beyond that, Amhara households have been linked to one another along three separate axes. Economically, they are linked through weekly markets. Politically, they were linked traditionally by obligations to lord over seigniories who held rights to tribute referred to as gelt, such that traditional Amhara society may be classed usuefully as feudal. Since the bureaucratization of public administration following World War II, household have been subordinated to subdistrict, district and provincial governors. Ecclesiastically, they have been linked through parishes, named after the sacred ark of its church, often coterminous with one or more local seigniories. Traditionally, Amhara churches have been supported through gelt right to usufruct and labour.”

sounds rather medieval-europe-like. there’s more:

“With respect to kinship, Amhara persons are linked through an ambilineal descent system. The Amhara rule of exogamy, prescribed in the Feth Nagast, requires that marriage-partners not be closer then ‘seven houses’; that is, not have a common great-great-great-grandparent. Kinship ties figure to some extent in connection with avenging murders, but primarily through determining the distribution of rights to the use of land. Other forms of Amhara social relations include the daily coffee klatch; monthly religious feasting associations in honour of a particular saint or angel; arrangement for reciprocal help in connection with farming, housebuilding and feasting; and voluntary dyadic personal relations including godparent-child, guarantor-guarantee and, pervasively, patron-client ties.”

clientelism?! ruh-roh.

more anon!

previously: mating patterns and society in ethiopia

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the hajnal line

from wikip:

“The Hajnal line links Saint Petersburg, Russia and Trieste, Italy. In 1965, John Hajnal discovered it divides Europe into two areas characterized by a different levels of nuptiality.

West of this line, the average age of women at first marriage was 24 or more, men 26, spouses were relatively close in age, and 10% or more of adults never married. East of the line, the mean age of both sexes at marriage was earlier, spousal age disparity was greater and marriage more nearly universal. Subsequent research has amply confirmed Hajnal’s continental divide, and what has come to be known as the ‘Western European marriage pattern’, although historical demographers have also noted that there are significant variations within the region….”

here it is. the caption on wikipedia reads: “The line in red is Hajnal’s. The dark blue lines show areas of high nuptiality West of the Hajnal line.”

so, basically, we’re talking about germanic peoples (west of the line).

michael mitterauer offers several explanations for the characteristics of marriage east of the line including:

“e) Influences of the church

As a rule, Christianity helped to weaken bonds of lineage and descent and strengthen the relations between spouses everywhere. Not everywhere, however, did these principles succeed to the same extent. The penetration of principles of church marriage laws was generally stronger in the area of the Western than in that of the eastern church. Also corporative and communal social forms supported by the church were stronger in the West. Consequently, patrilinear kinship structures were less affected in the area of the orthodox church than in the West. In the long run, however, also in the East Christian principles worked against structures of lineage and descent. Patrilinear patterns totally in contradiction to church marriage law, such as levirate marriages or second marriage in case of a childless first marriage, were maintained in areas of weak church influence in eastern and southeastern Europe.”

from “Whatever Happened to Hajnal’s Line”:

“Interestingly enough, Hajnal’s line followed quite closely the Iron Curtain, then dividing Europe into capitalist and socialist societies.”

this is one of emmanuel todd’s major points in “The Explanation of Ideology” — i.e. that almost all of the nations that became communist in the 20th century had a particular family structure based, amongst other things, on strong, patrilineal lineages. (i’m gonna write up a post on his book — soon. i promise!) i pointed out what looked like a connection between slavs and ex-communist countries here.

also from wikip:

The region’s late marriage pattern has received considerable scholarly attention in part because it appears to be unique; it has not been found in any other part of the world prior to the Twentieth Century. The origins of the late marriage system are a matter of conjecture prior to the 16th Century when the demographic evidence from family reconstitution studies makes the prevalence of the pattern clear….

interestingly, tacitus wrote about late marriage practices amongst the german tribes. it’s hard to tell, tho, if he was working from accurate information, or just reproaching his fellow romans for their morally loose marriage practices. here, from jack goody [pg. 39]:

“Marriages are not made early, for ‘the young men are slow to mate, and their powers, therefore, are never exhausted. The girls, too, are not hurried into marriage’. Was the ‘European pattern’ of late marriage (Hajnal 1965) already in evidence or was this too a figment of Tacitus’ moralising?”

in any case, delayed marriage for westerners (esp. western westerners) is not a new-fangled thing.

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“Exogamy, on the other hand, is a strict rule, an obligation which seems so normal to Europeans that they are hardly aware of it, but it does exist and it organizes their very existence and their society. It is a negative type of structuring which pushes apart the members of a single family and forces them to choose a marriage partner outside the group they come from. Despite myths about the permissive society, the Western world is very rigidly regulated from a sexual point of view.”

The Explanation of Ideology [pg. 27]

previously: we’re doomed

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side-effects of polygamy in three african societies

here’s a little data from the demographic and health surveys for three african nations where polygamy is common — benin (2006), burkina faso (2003), and nigeria (2008). these are the percentages of single (never married) men and women at different ages. as you can see, because of polygamy (which creates a shortage of women), it takes longer for men to get married (a first time).

in benin, we don’t see a majority of men (76%) being married until after age 25. the vast majority of women are married by ages 20-24:

in burkina faso, again, a majority of men (~60%) are not married until after age 25. 84% of women are married by age 24:

in nigeria, a majority of men (76%) are not married until between the ages of 30-34. 62% of women are married by the age of 24:

in all three countries, a majority of men aged 45+ (98-99%) are married, but there’s a h*ckuva long wait for so many men!

see also: solving the “polygamy problem”? and more on solving the “polygamy problem”

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more on solving the “polygamy problem”


“A major trait distinguishes the African family models as a whole from their European, American and Asiatic equivalents: widespread polygyny, which is only one central element of a whole system. The numbers of men and women in any community being roughly the same, a proportion of polygamous marriages of 30 per cent or more of all unions implies the existence of peculiar demographic mechanisms. One of these is a wide age difference between husband and wife. Women marry much younger than men and on average have more years of married life: the excess of ‘female married years’ is what makes general polygamy possible. To create a demographic balance, remarriage has to be frequent. Often it is not a question of remarriage but simply of inheritance, a widow being automatically transferred as wife to the man designated by the rules of succession. This implies a certain weakness or even the non-existence of prohibitions on marriages between affines; a man can inherit wives from his brother and from his father, although naturally his own mother is excluded. This practice, which is fairly frequent in Africa, flagrantly contravenes bothe the Christian and the Muslim teaching on incest.” [The Explanation of Ideology, pg. 192]

so, i think i may have been on the right track re. solving the “polygamy problem” (i.e. that if some men hoard all the women, other men will be cheated out of a chance to get a wife/wives). the trick must be to recirculate the women as much as possible. i suggested divorce as a possible strategy. in african societies, some men just inherit wives from male family members.

perhaps other men are still left out, tho. maybe women just circulate around the “alpha male” circles. getting your hands on some captive, slave women (as suggested by greying wanderer) is probably another solution.

previously: solving the “polygamy problem”?

update 06/22: see also side-effects of polygamy in three african societies

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i’ve been trying to get my head around the different types of kinship terminologies that people around the world use. i remember from anthro 101 that anthropologists seem to be particularly obsessed with kinship terminologies, but at the time i couldn’t figure out why. i still can’t figure out why, actually, ’cause from what i can tell, most anthropologists don’t seem to be bothered by actual genetic relationships or how related different individuals within a society are to one another and how marriage patterns can affect that. maybe i’m doing anthropologists a disservice — do let me know if i’m wrong about this — but i don’t think i am.

anyway, for instance — let’s take the hawaiian kinship system first. it’s one of the easiest to remember: everyone of your own generation is called ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ (in hawaiian, of course), and everyone of your parents’ generation is called ‘father’ or ‘mother.’ cool, huh?

but i can’t find anyone anywhere explaining why the hawaiians (and some other malayo-polynesians) should use this system. oh, sure, there’s lots of talk about communal living and how, traditionally, kids were raised by groups of adults … but really … that’s the best you got?

how about this: traditionally, a certain portion (dunno how much) of hawaiian marriages were group marriages. (kinky, huh?) groups of brothers would share their wives in common; or groups of sisters would share their husbands. it might even be that it was a group of brothers PLUS a group of sisters.

soooo … if we envision this group as everyone in a small village or hamlet, then you may as well call all the adults mom and dad ’cause you can’t be sure which ones really are your mom and dad!

well, actually, it’s usually pretty obvious who your mom is … but it might be very hard to tell who your dad is if your mom has been sleeping around (not YOUR mom, of course. she would never do that!). and if she’s been sleeping around with a bunch of brothers, it might be hard to pick out which one you look like (and, therefore, which one is prolly your dad) ’cause the brothers prolly all look kinda alike.

and as for everyone in your generation — well, any number of them might actually be your half- or full- brothers and sisters, so you may as well just call them all “brother” or “sister.”

(in reality, a lot of the adult “brothers” and “sisters” — i.e. the dads and the moms — might be cousins not siblings, or not just siblings, so then all the kids are half brothers and sisters and|or cousins. or something like that. i dunno. it’s very complicated.)

here, from westermarck (yes, the incest guy) [pgs. 239-40]:

“We now come to another type of group-unions, where a group of brothers are represented as married or having access to a group of sisters; and since these groups are said to consist of brothers and sisters in the classificatory sense, they would be of considerable size.

“The classical instance of this sort of group-unions is the punalua system of the Sandwich Islanders [Hawaiians]. Judge Lorin Andrews wrote in 1860 to Morgan:— “The relationship of punalua is rather amphibious. It arose from the fact that two or more brothers with their wives, or two or more sisters with their husbands, were inclined to possess each other in common; but the modern use of the word is that of dear friend or intimate companion.” The Rev. A. Bishop, who sent Morgan a schedule of the Hawaian system of relationship terms, observed that the “confusion of relationships” was “the result of the ancient custom among relatives of the living together of husbands and wives in common.” Dr. Bartlett wrote, “Husbands had many wives and wives many husbands, and exchanged with each other at pleasure.” Dr. Rivers remarks that side by side with the presence of individual marriage as a social institution there existed among the Sandwich Islanders much laxity, and also “a definite system of cicisbeism in which the paramours had a recognised status. Of these paramours those who would seem to have had the most definite status were certain relatives, viz. the brothers of the husband and the sisters of the wife. These formed a group within which all the males had marital rights over all the females”; and Dr. Rivers was told that even now, nearly a century after the general acceptance of Christianity, the rights of punalua “are still sometimes recognised, and give rise to cases which come before the law courts where they are treated as cases of adultery. In addition to these punalua who had a recognised status owing to their relationship to the married couple, there were often other paramours apparently chosen freely at the will of the husband and wife.”

westermarck expresses some doubts about the accuracy of the reports on the hawaiians, but he was also doubtful about reports on australian aboriginal systems of kinship and marriage and they turned out to be correct (i.e. that you couldn’t marry within your own moiety). it could very well be that the punalua system in hawaii was real, but westermarck had a hard time believing it to be true.

engels (yes, that engels!) wrote about another group of people who seem to have had the same kinship naming system as the hawaiians and a similar marriage practice:

“At the session of October 10 (Old Style; October 22, New Style) of the Anthropological Section of the Society of the Friends of Natural Science, N. A. Yanchuk read an interesting communication from Mr. Sternberg on the Gilyaks, a little-studied tribe on the island of Sakhalin, who are at the cultural level of savagery. The Gilyaks are acquainted neither with agriculture nor with pottery; they procure their food chiefly by hunting and fishing; they warm water in wooden vessels by throwing in heated stones, etc. Of particular interest are their institutions relating to the family and to the gens. The Gilyak addresses as father, not only his own natural father, but also all the brothers of his father; all the wives of these brothers, as well as all the sisters of his mother, he addresses as his mothers; the children of all these ‘fathers’ and ‘mothers’ he addresses as his brothers and sisters. This system of address also exists, as is well known, among the Iroquois and other Indian tribes of North America, as also among some tribes of India. But whereas in these cases it has long since ceased to correspond to the actual conditions, among the Gilyaks it serves to designate a state still valid today. To this day every Gilyak has the rights of a husband in regard to the wives of his brothers and to the sisters of his wife; at any rate, the exercise of these rights is not regarded as impermissible. These survivals of group marriage on the basis of the gens are reminiscent of the well-known punaluan marriage, which still existed in the Sandwich Islands in the first half of this century.

if these ethnographic accounts are correct, then i can’t see why anyone wouldn’t conclude that the reason for the hawaiian kinship naming system is due to the genetic relatedness between the members of the group. any of the male adults in the generation before you might be your father (so you might as well call them all “dad”), and any or all of the guys and gals in your own generation might be your half-, or even full-, brothers or sisters — not to mention that many of them are also your cousins (so you might as well call them all “brother” or “sister”.)

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