WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Interracial marriages in the United States have jumped more than fivefold in the half-century since the Supreme Court ruled they were legal, making up 17 percent of newlywed couples in 2015, according to a Pew Research Center report on Thursday.
The trend has been marked by growing acceptance, with 39 percent of adults in a Pew poll this spring saying that it is good for society, a 15-point increase in seven years, the report said.
Among all married Americans, about 10 percent, or 11 million people, had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity, said Pew, which based its report on Census Bureau data.
“We’re seeing changing behaviors and we’re also seeing changes in attitude about intermarriage, and they’re all moving in the same direction,” Gretchen Livingston, a senior Pew researcher and an author of the study, said by telephone.
In the report, people were classified first by ethnicity, defined as Hispanic or not, and then by race - white, black, Asian, American Indian, multiracial or other. Intermarriage involves a Hispanic and a non-Hispanic, or ties between non-Hispanic spouses from different racial groups.
The findings mark a social turnaround from 1967, when a mere 3 percent of new marriages was interracial.
The Supreme Court that year ruled in the landmark Loving v. Virginia case that marriage across racial lines was legal throughout the United States.
The number of new marriages across racial or ethnic lines varies widely across U.S. metropolitan areas. Honolulu had, by far, the biggest share of newlyweds - 42 percent - marrying someone of a different race or ethnicity, trailed by Las Vegas at 31 percent.
Those cities’ high degree of ethnic diversity likely contributes to interracial marriages, the report said. In Honolulu, the “marriage market” of unmarried and recently married adults in Honolulu comprises 42 percent Asians, 20 percent non-Hispanic whites, and 9 percent Hispanics.
At the other end of the scale, 3 percent of newlyweds in Jackson, Mississippi, and Asheville, North Carolina, married across racial or ethnic lines. In Asheville, the pool of potential spouses is 85 percent white, the analysis said.
The most dramatic increase in intermarriage has occurred among black newlyweds. Since 1980, the share who married someone of a different race or ethnicity has surged to 18 percent from 5 percent.
White intermarriage has risen to 11 percent from 4 percent over the same period, but whites are the least likely among racial or ethnic groups to intermarry, the report said.
Editing by Richard Chang and Bernadette Baum