To have and to hold, part two: Interracial marriage among American Muslims


In the more than 50 years since the landmark ruling in Loving v. Virginia, interracial marriage has steadily increased in the United States. As is often the case with meaningful social change, this general pattern is not the same across the entire U.S. population. Pew highlights several significant differences in the rate of interracial marriage on the basis of age, race, and whether or not one lives in a metro area. One demographic category that has been comparatively absent from these empirical examinations is religion, despite the centrality of religious arguments against interracial marriage in the Loving case, in its aftermath, and even in fairly recent disputes.

Using data from the 2019 American Muslim Poll, we took a closer look at interracial marriage across faith groups and within the American Muslim community. Figure 1 demonstrates a distinct divide on the basis of religious affiliation among married individuals. On the one hand, the percentage of Jews, white Evangelicals, and Protestants who are not white Evangelicals, respectively, married to partners of a different race is in the mid-single digits. On the other hand, the percentage of interracial marriage among Muslims, Catholics, and the non-affiliated, respectively, is more than double the other groups, on average. Indeed, nearly 1 in 5 Muslims report being married to someone with a racial background that differs from their own. 

Figure 1: A bar graph showing that Muslims (19%), Catholics (17%), and the nonaffiliated (15%) are the most likely faith groups to marry someone of a different race
Note: These values are 95% confidence intervals.


Focusing in on Muslims, we find a number of ways in which the community’s demographic breakdown aligns with and diverges from trends in interracial marriage among the broader public. Figure 2, for example, shows that there is initially a mild uptick in rates of interracial marriage among Muslims ages 30–49 compared with those ages 18–29, which is followed by a noticeable (if statistically insignificant) drop-off among Muslims ages 50 and older. This pattern is roughly in line with what we observe in the general public.

Figure 2: A bar graph showing that there is no statistical difference in Muslims' rate of interracial marriage across age groups
Note: These values are 95% confidence intervals.

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