There has been a lot of talk about the “high” intermarriage rate (~ 50%) of American Jews and how this “proves” a willingness to assimilate. However, in Separation and Its Discontents, Dr. Kevin MacDonald analyzed the data and concluded that the 50% rate was likely an over-estimate, at least for first marriages (i.e., those most likely to lead to family formation), and because of undercounting conservative and orthodox Jews. In addition, even if we accept a 50% rate, I previously commented on other forums that such a rate is actually indicative of a resistance to assimilation, not a tendency toward it. That is because not only do virtually all white gentile ethnic groups have an intermarriage rate greater than 50% (as the work of Alba has shown), but proportion of the population needs to be figured in. The larger a group, the greater the probability, and possibility, of finding a mate of the same ethnic (or religious) background; the smaller the group, the greater the chance of mating with someone different – that is, if the people in question have no innate resistance to assimilatory intermarriage. Given that Jews make up a very small percent of the American population, the Jewish intermarriage rate in the absence of anti-assimilation pressures should be much higher than 50%, in fact at least 80%.
An excerpt from a relevant article, emphasis added:
Individuals that make up ethnic groups may influence the group’s rate of assimilation. While not necessarily providing the ultimate explanation for variations in assimilation between ancestry groups, ethnic capital plays a vital mediating role in the transmission of ethnicity. Not only is ethnic capital an outcome, as is implicit in the assimilation literature, but it plays a role in ethnic choice, as individuals with greater ethnic capital will be more likely to retain ethnic identification and invest in their children’s ethnic capital, a subject that has received little attention in the literature. The lack of an explicit concept of ethnic capital has contributed to the focus on group-level, structural analyses of assimilation rather than at the level of the individual….
While the concept of ethnic capital has been shown to incorporate existing theories, its utility depends on its ability to expand theoretical and empirical knowledge about ethnicity. To demonstrate the usefulness of an ethnic capital approach to assimilation, we examine the causes of intermarriage, a key product of and contributor to assimilation among American Jews. The Jewish intermarriage rate of about 50 percent is extremely low, given environmental odds of intermarriage of 98 percent. This compares with ethnic intermarriage rates of 80 percent for U.S.-born whites (Alba 2000:218-220) and religious intermarriage rates of 38 percent for Catholics and 65 percent for moderate Protestants (Sherkat 2004), each of which would be expected to have far lower intermarriage rates than Jews given the greater size of the groups. American Jewry may represent the outer limits of resisting assimilation for white ethnic groups in the United States.
Even though the intermarriage rates for Catholics and Protestants, when adjusted for population, demonstrate a far greater willingness to “mate with the other” than the Jewish rate, those religious comparisons are not reasonable; the correct comparison should be to the ethnic intermarriage rates. After all, what does Catholic or Protestant intra-religious marriage really mean? A Catholic marrying a Catholic could be an Irish ancestry person marrying another Irish, or an Italian or a Pole. Or, it could very well mean the Irish person marrying a mestizo Mexican, mulatto Puerto Rican/Dominican or an Asiatic Filipino. Likewise, a Swedish ancestry Protestant can “marry within the faith” with a Korean or a Negro. On the other hand, the vast majority of American Jews are Ashkenazi and a sizable fraction of the small non-Ashkenazi minority is still Caucasian Sephardic or “Oriental” (e.g., Iraqi, Iranian, etc.) Jews.
Therefore, comparing Christian vs. Jewish intermarriage is like comparing apples and oranges, and makes the Jewish resistance to intermarriage less extreme than it really is. Given the strong ethnic/racial component to Jewish identity, the real comparison is the white gentile intermarriage rate of 80 percent. Even with a Jewish rate of 50% — likely an overestimation — that’s almost two-fold lower than what is should be.
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