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Who Intermarries in Britain? Essay

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The title of this article is ‘Who intermarries in Britain? Explaining ethnic diversity in intermarriage patterns’ by two authors, Raya Muttarak and Anthony Heath. The purpose of this article was to publish Muttarak and Heath’s research findings, which aimed to answer the question in the article title of, ‘who intermarries in Britain?’, (Muttarak and heath, 2010) through exploring patterns and trends in inter ethnic relationships, in particular marriages, how each ethnic group in Britain compares to each other in terms of intermarriage and possible factors that may influence intermarriages between minority and majority ethnic groups .

Overall, the text was clear in its aims of the article and the purpose of the research was clear and made apparent within the introduction, which set the tone for the whole text content and made it easy to follow, understand and reliable in its results, although on the other hand, it was quite repetitive throughout, at times unclear of its research methods, in terms of the use of formulas. ‘Investigates trends, patterns and determinants of intermarriage (and partnerships) comparing patterns among men and women and among different ethnic groups in Britain’, (Muttarak and Heath, 2010, pg.275).


Key issues and themes that were present throughout is assimilation, the fact that the propensity of intermarriage is highly dependent on the assimilation of the ethnic minority/majority into British society. ‘We draw ideas from the assimilation approach’, (Muttarak and Heath, 2010, pg.276). In relation to the theme of assimilation, factors such as education level attainment, geographical issues and size of ethnic group were incorporated into the theme and explored in terms of what impact they have on intermarriage and the extent in which assimilation is present within these factors. The theme of the Jewish and Irish model is presented by Peach (2005) is a key issue throughout the research article. The fact that the Irish model has been used to as a way of explaining the integration of Caribbean people into the population and the same has been done with the Jewish model with the integration of the Indian population.

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Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Chinese populations have also been included in Peach’s theory. These comparisons have been consistently mentioned within the research and the theory reflects patterns of intermarriage in different ethnic groups, ‘Indians and Pakistanis in Britain still follow a traditional nor of spouse selection from their own country’, (Peach, 2005, pg.280) and ‘the majority of Black Caribbean and Chinese do not oppose intermarriage’, (Madood, 1997, pg.280). These are examples of the theme of the Jewish and Irish model being used throughout the research. Another key issue within this research is the constant findings of the Asian; Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian population having high rates of endogamy compared to other ethnic groups, ‘the propensity for ethnic endogamy is the highest among Pakistanis and Bangladeshis followed by Indians’, (Muttarak and Heath, 2010, pg.288).

This issue is again addressed within the conclusion of the research. The key points within this text were that, the research in the article differed from other research, which was usually based on ‘American tradition of scholarship on assimilation’, (Muttarak and Heath, 2010, pg.276). The fact that the authors recognised that there were a number of factors that impacted on intermarriage in Britain and chose not to focus on just one factor was a point made throughout the text. Another point is that the research was mainly based upon data collected from surveys through the GHS (General Household Surveys).

To do this, six hypotheses were announced within the text, based on different theories, which resulted in a six part conclusion. ‘Hypothesis 2 (derived from opportunity structure theory)’, (Muttarak and Heath, 2010, pg.281).The key argument in the conclusion is that, there is not one key factor that impacts on the patterns and trends in intermarriage, the main factor being the assimilation into British society of the different minority groups. Although the trends reflect their cultures and norms, there are clear differences in propensity of intermarriage between the ethnic groups. The findings within this article have been simplified by the authors as ‘different starting points by similar processes of change’, (Muttarak and Heath, 2010, pg.298).

Strengths and weaknesses

There are several strengths and weaknesses within the article, in relation to the research methods, the findings, the way the results were presented and the structure of the text. A strength of the research is that each hypothesis that was stated in the text was based upon a theory; this gives the reader a greater insight into the understanding as to how the researcher has decided upon the hypothesis. ‘Hypothesis 6 (derived from segmented assimilation theory)’, (Muttarak and Heath, 2010, pg.282). On the other hand, it is also a weakness, because as a reader it could be difficult to come to terms with the idea that a clear conclusion could be made from researching from so many angles in terms of theories. In relation to the structure of the text, within are clear definitions and explanations of terms that may not be known to all readers. ‘Heterogeneity refers to the distribution of a population according to distinguishable individual characteristics’, (Muttarak and Heath, 2010, pg.281).

This a strength because, it allows a greater understanding of the text and simplifies the text for those who may not be familiar with this research area and the related key terms associated. This research involves secondary research, which was derived from ‘General Household Surveys (GHS) for 1998-2006’, (Muttarak and Heath, 2010, pg.282), this made the final results and conclusion more valid and reliable as the information gathered for the research is from an official survey group. It was also more valid, as the surveys were carried out over a period of years in order to compare the rates of intermarriage between the various ethnic groups. By doing so, Muttarak and Heath (2010) were able to gather a view of the changes in attitudes, norms and values in relation to endogamy from the different ethnic groups and propensity of endogamy surrounding the ethnic groups.

In addition to this, a big sample was used for the survey research, ‘GHS covers approximately 9,000 households and about 16,000 adults aged 16 and over in England’, (Muttarak and Heath, 2010, pg.282). A weakness of the research is that a number of formulas were used in order to measure the variables, this made the article and the hypothesises difficult to follow and understand, if someone who was not from the targeted audience had came across this article. On the other hand the authors did explain what the formula represented, ‘where for individual I from ethnic group e, our measure equals the ratio of the number of White British w’, (Muttarak and Heath, 2010, pg.290). Another positive point about this article is that Muttarak and Heath (2010) used do different methods to present their findings, which included presenting the findings within the text and also by presenting it into numerical format into a table.

An example of the ‘descriptive results’, (Muttarak and Heath, 2010, pg.284) is, ‘the rate of majority/minority partnership is significantly higher for men and women’, (Muttarak and Heath, 2010, pg.284) and ‘table II presents the distribution of types of unions formed in Britain’, (Muttarak and Heath, 2010, pg. 284) represents the data that has been put into table form. This allows the reader to interpret the findings from different angles, whether it be from a numerical, quantitative perspective or from the written results within the text, from a qualitative perspective. Muttarak and Heath (2010), have not been biased in within their research, they have remained fair and open-minded in terms of the results throughout the article and have been able to achieve this by creating a number of hypothesis that can explore the issue of intermarriage in Britain from different angles. ‘The advantage of this technique is that we can estimate the association between husband’s and wife’s ethnicity’, (Muttarak and Heath, 2010, pg.286).

The authors have backed up their choices of method throughout the research. They state which method they will use and for which hypothesis and give the advantages of using this particular method. This suggests that Muttarak and Heath are not just using random methods that have no relevance to the research, but by giving the appropriate advantages of each method makes the findings more reliable and results more solid.

Overall throughout the article, there are more strengths than weaknesses that can be identified throughout in relation to the structure, concepts, themes and key issues within the research. The intended audience is clear and the purpose of the research is stated from the beginning. The article has stayed focus on its aims, which resulted in fair, valid and reliable findings and a strong conclusion of intermarriage in Britain. The results were that the propensity of intermarriage is dependant on the ethnic group and a number of factors, such as education level, assimilation into British society, generation and age. Overall the purpose of the article was fulfilled .

Muttarak, R and Heath, A (2010) Who intermarries in Britain? Explaining ethnic diversity in intermarriage patterns. British Journal of Sociology, 61: 275-305

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