One of every nine married couples in Utah is now "mixed-nativity," meaning one spouse is foreign-born and the other is a U.S. native.
That is the fifth highest rate among the states, according to estimates released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Mixed-nativity marriages, 2011
How states rank for such marriages between a U.S. native and a foreign-born spouse:
1. Hawaii, 16.2%
2. Nevada, 13.8%
3. California, 13.4%
4. Florida, 10.7%
5. Utah, 10.5%
National average: 7.4%
"The number of mixed-nativity, married-couple households corresponds with the increase in immigration to the United States over the last several decades," said Elizabeth Grieco, chief of the Census Bureau’s Foreign-Born Population Branch.
"As the immigrant population has grown, so has the chance that a native-born person will meet and marry a foreign-born spouse," she said. Such marriages could be between a native-born and foreign-born Latinos, for example, or between people of different races and cultures.
The rate in Utah for such marriages is 10.5 percent, well above the national average of 7.4 percent.
The states that ranked higher include Hawaii, 16.2 percent of all marriages; Nevada, 13.8 percent; California, 13.4 percent; and Florida, 10.7 percent. The state with the lowest rate was Wisconsin, at 1.5 percent.
Pam Perlich, senior research economist at the University of Utah, sees several reasons why Utah may rank so high — including a large number of long-settled Latinos who may marry new immigrants, a high number of foreign university students, and the state’s many returned LDS missionaries who may be more likely to marry immigrants because of familiarity with their native culture and language.
"We did have a large Hispanic population before immigrants came" in large waves from Latin America from the 1990s up to the recession in 2007, Perlich said. "I would guess a lot of this is first-generation people marrying second- or third-generation people."
She added that other states with long-established Latino populations, such as Nevada and California, also rank high for mixed-nativity marriages.
Another likely reason for mixed-nativity marriages are the state’s universities where, Perlich noted, "We have many foreign-born students, faculty and researchers."
Perlich also pointed to returned LDS missionaries, who "may be more likely to meet and marry immigrants because of their language skills" and familiarity with native cultures.
Data have shown that most immigrants coming to Utah are young and marry in years after they arrive, helping to drive up numbers. Perlich said many come from cultures where people marry young and have large families, "so immigrants are reinforcing several signature demographics of Utah: high rates of marriage, marriage at young age and large households."
The Census Bureau also recently released some interesting data at the national level about people in mixed-nativity marriages, including:
• Foreign-born spouses in mixed-nativity marriages are more likely to be naturalized U.S. citizens (61 percent) than noncitizens (39 percent).
• In such marriages, the foreign-born spouse is more likely to be the wife (55 percent).
• Foreign-born spouses are more likely to have been born in Latin America and the Caribbean (40 percent), followed by Asia (23 percent) and Europe (16 percent).
• Foreign-born husbands are more likely to have been born in Latin America, while foreign-born wives are more likely to have been born in Asia.
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