Mixed marriages between immigrants and natives in Spain

In their article “Mixed marriages between immigrants and natives in Spain: the gendered effect of marriage market constraints”, researchers Amparo González-Ferrer, Ognjen Obućina, Clara Cortina, and Teresa Castro-Martin analyse the characteristics of mixed and endogamous couples in Spain from 1996 to 2008 to determine natives’ and immigrants’ respective propensities to intermarry. This is the first study of mixed marriage in Spain to take account of determinant factors in marital choice among both natives and immigrants during a peak immigration period.
The researchers drew on data from a retrospective survey conducted in 2007 by the Spanish National Institute of Statistics that included several questions on socio-demographic characteristics but also questioned 15,000 persons born outside Spain on their migration experience. The authors studied only immigrants of marrying age; that is, aged 16 or over, and only those who had lived in Spain at least one year before getting married. Individuals who married a Spaniard before immigrating to Spain therefore do not figure in the study.
Another source used to analyse natives’ marital choices was the Spanish Marriage Register. The drawback to this source is that only mixed marriages celebrated in Spain are registered, which may lead to underestimating the total number of mixed marriages. Moreover, unmarried cohabiting couples were not counted; nor were same-sex marriages.

The authors found that the probability of marrying within one’s own group in the three years following immigration to Spain is approximately the same for men and women. After that length of time, men are more likely than women to marry endogamously. Women immigrants, meanwhile, are more likely to intermarry than their male counterparts regardless of length of stay in Spain.

The higher a male immigrant’s level of education, the more likely he is to marry a native Spanish woman. For women immigrants, however, their education level is not relevant. Women who belong to a relatively large migrant community in Spain more often marry within it.
Male and female natives who have already been married are more likely intermarry the second time around than those who have never been married.

Relative few high-skilled Spanish-born men choose an immigrant spouse. Native men who marry younger women are more likely to be in a mixed marriage than those who marry a partner of similar age.

Studying mixed marriage from the perspectives of both immigrants and native-born, and studying sex-specific models and influence of education level enable us to better understand the multiple logics behind differing proportions of mixed marriage by immigrant group in Spain. 

Source : Amparo González-Ferrer, Clara Cortina, Ognjen Obućina, Teresa Castro-Martín, 2018, Mixed marriages between immigrants and natives in Spain : the gendered effect of marriage market constraints, Demographic Research, vol. 39, 1, pp. 1-32.

Contact: Ognjen Obućina

On line from March 2019