Black and White Mixed Marriages: An Ethnographic Study of Black-White Ernest Porterfield

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<ul><li><p>Black and White Mixed Marriages: An Ethnographic Study of Black-White Families. by ErnestPorterfieldReview by: Donald P. IrishSocial Forces, Vol. 57, No. 3 (Mar., 1979), pp. 1022-1023Published by: Oxford University PressStable URL: .Accessed: 15/06/2014 16:50</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .</p><p> .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact</p><p> .</p><p>Oxford University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Social Forces.</p><p> </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 16:50:17 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>1022 / Social Forces / vol. 57:3, march 1979 </p><p>social problems perspective on housing and to policy considerations that might be employed to ameliorate housing "problems." </p><p>Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the book is the argument in Chapter 15 that, so far as housing norms are concerned, blacks, Mexican-Americans, and the poor in general are not "subcultures." That is, their wishes, hopes, aspirations, and preferences for housing are not basically different from those of other Americans. All want to own a single family house of ample size for their family in a neighborhood that is safe and has good schools. In short, no unique "designs for living" in respect to housing are transmitted from generation to generation within these groups. Rather, their lower levels of achieved housing are explained by the constraints, especially lack of money, with which they have to live. The research literature marshalled in support of this position is impressive. If this is a correct assessment-if America's minorities and the poor have no unique subcultural housing norms-it has tremendous implications for governmental policies and programs concerning public housing, rent supplementation, tax breaks for mortgage interest payments, and so forth. </p><p>In sum, this is an excellent book. Every housing sociologist must have it, and family and urban sociologists should be familiar with it. The review of the literature is outstanding, the book is conceptually rigorous, and, despite the heavy systems jargon, it is well written. </p><p>Black and White Mixed Marriages: An Ethnographic Study of Black-White Families. By Ernest Porterfield. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1978. 189 pp. Cloth, $12.95; paper, $6.95. </p><p>Reviewer: DONALD P. IRISH, Hamline University </p><p>A decade after Gordon, Larsson, and others published on this theme, Porterfield's volume is a welcome contribution to the field. His data, whether from Censuses, other research, or his own original inquiry, attest to the increasingly non-regional nature of inter-racial marriages. </p><p>He first reviews miscegenation in early America, some Census data on intermixture (from 1850-1910), a consideration of categorical degrees of racial mixture, estimates of the extent of "passing" (for a century), and the extent and effect of anti-miscegenation laws (from the Colonial period forward). Marshalling, citing, and summarizing such scattered and fragmented information are useful. (The inconsistent usage of "Negro" and "black" is bothersome-perhaps a concession to diversity of sources and changes over time. The continued use of "blood" for a genetic relationship ought to have been discarded.) </p><p>Porterfield outlines theories of racial mixture (Merton, Levi-Strauss, Heer, Farber, et al.) and concludes that "despite the tendency for old categories to persist [race, religion, class, ethnic origin], other categories of mate selection will likely increase in relative importance" [e.g., personalities, community backgrounds, personal interests of the couple, and the like]. However, his attempt to synthesize and build on prior frameworks seems not fully cogent. </p><p>He organizes widespread data related to the more recent incidence and nature of black/white marriages-a difficult task, given the inconsistent and </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 16:50:17 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>Book Reviews / 1023 </p><p>sporadic recording of such data nationally and the problems inherent in diverse social definitions of "race." Demographic trends, changes in "social climate," the social contexts of such alliances, combinations by race/sex, social characteristics of the couples, marital stability, children, and relations with the wider community are considered and are well, succinctly, and objectively summarized. The author also presents data from 20 other studies regarding the frequency of black/white marital combinations, concluding that generally marriages between black men and white women are much more common than the reverse. Further, he relates data on hypergamy and hypogamy patterns and trends to exchange theory, the accessibility of females, and cultural standards of attractiveness. </p><p>Anticipating changes following the civil rights legislation of the 1960s and recent Supreme Court decisions, Porterfield launched his investigation, a study of 40 black/white marriages within four communities. Data were secured through semi-structured, in-depth, and taped interviews, usually with husband and wife together in their own living room. His original contribution inheres in the data presented from these couples concerning the perceived motives for their marriages; dating patterns, wedding experiences, and marital interactions; and relationships with the larger community. Anecdotal excerpts supplement tables and illustrate the insights offered and conclusions derived. </p><p>While fully appreciating Porterfield's contribution to this complicated research topic, and also recognizing the difficulties in securing representative pairs for interviewing, some caveats are required for interpreting the material. The four communities involved in the "snowball sample" were not demonstrated to be representative of any particular social characteristics of the wider society. Only 60 percent of the inter-racial couples contacted (N = 67) acceded to interviews. Of the 40 pairs, 31 resided in the northern two communities. Only 7 of the combinations were white male/black female pairs. Suggestive as his tables and anecdotal material are, they are an insubstantial basis for generalizations related to inter-racial characteristics and trends nationally. Regrettably, little solidity is added to the speculative results of other inquiries. </p><p>Inclusion of specific interview questions would enable anyone better to interpret the information elicited. (Omission of the seemingly irrelevant, brief sections on Mexico and Brazil, would have released space.) The reader is unable to know how the researcher "measured" the "rejection/acceptance of respondents' marriages, by families of orientation and other kinsmen." Similarly, how were the tabulated "reactions of community toward black-white couples" meastured for both the black and white communities? These and the many other aspects are complicated, multi-faceted interactions, not readily explained by categorizing, tabulating, and illustrating responses from a few unrepresentative cases. </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 16:50:17 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p><p>Article Contentsp. 1022p. 1023</p><p>Issue Table of ContentsSocial Forces, Vol. 57, No. 3 (Mar., 1979), pp. 785-1047Front MatterThe Dialectical Method: Its Application to Social Theory [pp. 785 - 798]Modeling Use Diffusion [pp. 799 - 811]Derivation of Some Social-Demographic Regularities from the Theory of Time- Minimization [pp. 812 - 823]Enduring Effects of Military Service? Opinion Differences between U.S. Veterans and Nonveterans [pp. 824 - 839]Government Legitimacy and Political Stability [pp. 840 - 852]The Impact of Alienation, Meaninglessness, and Meritocracy on Supervisor and Subordinate Satisfaction [pp. 853 - 870]The Effect of Sex Role Differences on the Societal Reaction to Mental Retardation [pp. 871 - 886]Evidence for a Social Psychological View of the Status Attainment Process: Four Studies Compared [pp. 887 - 914]Organizational Differentiation in Urban Communities: A Study in Organizational Ecology [pp. 915 - 930]Changes in the Coincidence of the Boundaries and Populations of Central Cities [pp. 931 - 951]Prejudice and Urban Social Participation Reconsidered [pp. 952 - 959]A Note on Family Situation and Global Happiness [pp. 960 - 967]Technological Innovation among Congressmen [pp. 968 - 974]Book Reviewsuntitled [pp. 975 - 978]untitled [pp. 978 - 980]untitled [pp. 980 - 982]untitled [pp. 982 - 985]untitled [pp. 985 - 986]untitled [pp. 987 - 988]untitled [pp. 988 - 989]untitled [pp. 989 - 990]untitled [pp. 991 - 993]untitled [pp. 993 - 994]untitled [pp. 994 - 996]untitled [pp. 996 - 997]untitled [pp. 997 - 998]untitled [pp. 998 - 999]untitled [pp. 999 - 1001]untitled [pp. 1001 - 1002]untitled [pp. 1002 - 1003]untitled [pp. 1004 - 1005]untitled [pp. 1005 - 1006]untitled [pp. 1006 - 1007]untitled [pp. 1008 - 1009]untitled [pp. 1009 - 1010]untitled [pp. 1010 - 1012]untitled [pp. 1012 - 1013]untitled [pp. 1013 - 1014]untitled [pp. 1014 - 1015]untitled [pp. 1015 - 1016]untitled [pp. 1017 - 1018]untitled [pp. 1018 - 1020]untitled [pp. 1020 - 1021]untitled [pp. 1021 - 1022]untitled [pp. 1022 - 1023]untitled [p. 1024]untitled [pp. 1025 - 1026]untitled [pp. 1026 - 1027]untitled [pp. 1027 - 1028]untitled [pp. 1028 - 1030]untitled [pp. 1030 - 1031]untitled [pp. 1031 - 1032]</p><p>Correspondence [pp. 1046 - 1047]Back Matter [pp. 1033 - 1045]</p></li></ul>


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