Since the miscegenation laws were abolished nationwide in 1967, people of different races in the United States have been allowed to marry across racial lines.
The number of opposite-sex interracial marriages among all marriages increased from 0.7 percent in 1970 to 6.9 percent in 2010.
The Western states have a particularly high percentage of racial intermarriages (about 11 percent). The "melting pot" has expanded from the societal level to the family level, changing the demographics of the American racial formation.
Compared with other racial groups in America, Asian-Americans have the highest outmarriage rates (meaning, marriage outside of their race) -- and the rate is particularly high among women.
Interracial marriages are typically less stable and have higher divorce rates than racially homogenous marriages that involve Asian-Americans. The following are some suggestions to better understand and work with Asian-American women in interracial marriages.
1. You need to value the diverse reasons for Asian-American women to intermarry.
Generally speaking, those with an ethnic culture influenced by the West, good English and U.S.-born status are more likely to marry interracially than those with a distinct ethnic culture, poor English and foreign-born status.
Japanese, Korean and Filipino women are most likely to marry whites, while Southeast Asian and Asian-Indian women are least likely to outmarry.
Asian-American women born overseas are much more likely to intermarry than foreign-born Asian-American men. Among Asians born in the U.S., the gender gap in racial intermarriage is minimal.
The fact that foreign-born Japanese, Korean and Filipino women have the highest rates of interracial marriage could be linked with past and current U.S. military involvements in those countries.
2. You need to recognize the potential impact of education and socioeconomic status on Asian-American women's intermarriage.
Asian women living in the U.S. have a relatively high educational level and socioeconomic status on average, compared with women in other racial and ethnic groups.
Those with higher education and socioeconomic status tend to live in predominantly white neighborhoods and have more contact with people of other races on university campuses and in their professional, administrative or managerial workplaces.
When they outmarry, their spouses are more likely to have similar educational backgrounds. Among recent immigrants from China and India, however, there are many skilled professional females who were already married when entering the United States.
3. You need to be aware that family objections could be a great hurdle for Asian-American women entering intermarriages.
That hurdle may lead to fierce conflict with the parents and sometimes loss of family ties, including secret dating, prolonged engagement periods, feelings of guilt, unfriendly relations and unpleasant social situations on holidays, weddings or funerals.
Family disapproval also puts a great strain on marital life. Physical distance may moderate family objection, though, for parents of many intermarried Asian-American women are still living in the home countries.
When working with Asian-American women in intermarriages, it is not just about the couple or family you have direct contact with. The extended family system overseas should also be taken into consideration.
Wei Qiu is on the faculty of the Weber State University department of child and family studies. The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of WSU.