Date of Degree

9-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Sociology

Advisor

Nancy Foner

Committee Members

Richard Alba

Philip Kasinitz

Robert Smith

Subject Categories

Family, Life Course, and Society | Gender and Sexuality | Migration Studies | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Race and Ethnicity | Sociology of Religion

Keywords

Nigerian American, Nigerian Immigrants, Black Immigrants, Second Generation, Intermarriage, Endogamy

Abstract

Selecting a life partner is arguably one of the most important decisions in a person’s life. In the U.S. where race is salient, immigrants present a unique opportunity to study how people make such an important decision. This dissertation examines the social decision-making of the U.S.-born children of Nigerian immigrants as they navigate the dating and marriage process. It goes beyond an examination of intermarriage among Blacks through a strictly racial lens to emphasize heterogeneity and ethnic variation within the Black racial category. It considers intermarriage involving Blacks as a phenomenon that is not just about unions with Whites. By examining intermarriage in terms of ethnic, racial, and religious differences, this study sheds light on the elided heterogeneity of the Black population.

Using mixed methods, this study argues for a more nuanced definition of intermarriage and begins with a demographic profile of intermarriage by race and ethnicity, using harmonized decennial censuses from 1980 and 1990, and the American Community Surveys (ACS) from 2000, 2010, and 2019. However, the majority of questions are answered using ethnographic data, focus groups, and in-depth interviews with 75 participants.

This dissertation addresses the monolithic conceptions of Blackness by focusing on intermarriage among Nigerian Americans. Nigerian Americans serve as a unique case study on immigrant integration of the children of Black immigrants through their marital choices, a topic on which there have been relatively few studies. This dynamic process of marital selection stands out in the Nigerian American case for several reasons. First, Nigeria is the number one source country of African immigrants to the U.S. Second, Nigerian Americans are Black immigrants. This is important because contemporary studies of intermarriage tend to focus on racial differences between partners, often ignoring ethnic differences within racial or national origin groups, especially among people of African descent. Third, Nigeria is both a Muslim and Christian country; therefore, religion remains an important factor in the lives of Nigerian Americans. Lastly, Nigerian Americans are one of the most educated immigrant groups in the country. Thus, focusing on a hyper-selective group such as Nigerian Americans allows us to investigate the ways in which groups with high levels of education navigate the marital selection process.

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