Changing Boundaries of Whiteness? Demographic and Social Determinants of Middle Eastern and North African Marriage Trends in the United States


Intermarriage is an important indicator of immigrant integration trajectories and the rigidity of ethnoracial boundaries. Although questions of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) integration and social exclusion occupy a central place in public discourse, little is known about their marriage patterns. The authors use the 2017 American Community Survey to estimate patterns of coethnic, panethnic, and intergroup marriages for MENA populations. Compared with other immigrant groups, rates of intermarriage are relatively high, and there is little evidence of ``panethnic’’ patterns of marriage. However, more recent marriages have become less exogamous. Hierarchical age-period-cohort models suggest that this is driven by changing patterns among more recent cohorts, with some evidence of a post-2001 period effect among men. Compositional changes in the country of origin account for some, but not all, of these cohort effects. The findings highlight the importance of further research on MENA Americans to understand their unique social experiences of the U.S. ethnoracial hierarchy, particularly in the context of increasing racialized anti-Arab and anti-Muslim discrimination after 2001.

Sociology of Race and Ethnicity