Oklahoma has moved into second place among states with a high percentage of interracial marriages, according to a brief issued this week by U.S. Census Bureau.
Nearly one-fifth of Oklahoma's 723,000 married households and more than a quarter of the state's unmarried households include partners of different racial makeup, according to 2010 census figures.
Nationwide, 10 percent of marriages were considered interracial, marking a 28 percent increase over 2000 census figures.
The U.S. Census Bureau divided the population into seven different racial categories for the report and then tallied the number of households, married and unmarried, that included couples from different racial backgrounds.
In Oklahoma, 17.2 percent of married households include interracial couples, compared to 14.8 percent in 2000.
The new figures push the state just past Alaska for the No. 2 ranking. Both states are home to significantly fewer interracial marriages than Hawaii, where more than a third of all marriages include couples from different racial backgrounds.
Steve Barker, program manager for the Oklahoma Data Center and senior research analyst for Oklahoma Department of Commerce, said the figures can be explained by the state's high American Indian population.
More than 321,000 Oklahomans checked the “American Indian and Alaska Native” box on the 2010 census form, comprising nearly 105,000 households.
“Diversity isn't necessarily the issue,” Barker said. “Other communities are more diverse than we are with regard to some of the other races that are defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, but we do have a large number of Native Americans here within the state of Oklahoma, and they have married partners who may or may not identify themselves as Native Americans on census forms.”