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The West was followed by the South, Northeast and Midwest.By state, mostly white Vermont had the lowest rate of intermarriage, at 4 percent.A Pew Research Center study, released Thursday, details a diversifying America where interracial unions and the mixed-race children they produce are challenging typical notions of race."The rise in interracial marriage indicates that race relations have improved over the past quarter century," said Daniel Lichter, a sociology professor at Cornell University.For purposes of defining interracial marriages, Hispanic is counted as a race by many in the demographic field.RELATED: KENTUCKY CHURCH REVISITS INTERRACIAL COUPLE BAN AFTER UPROAR The study finds that 8.4 percent of all current U. marriages are interracial, up from 3.2 percent in 1980.Of the 275,500 new interracial marriages in 2010, 43 percent were white-Hispanic couples, 14.4 percent were white-Asian, 11.9 percent were white-black, and the remainder were other combinations.Still, the share of Asians who intermarried has actually declined recently - from 30.5 percent in 2008 to 27.7 percent in 2010.

One study conducted a decade ago determined that mixed-race couples had a 41 percent chance of separation or divorce, compared to a 31 percent chance for those who married within their race.

Another analysis found divorce rates among mixed-race couples to be more dependent on the specific race combination, with white women who married outside their race more likely to divorce.

Mixed marriages involving blacks and whites also were considered least stable, followed by Hispanic-white couples.

"In the past century, intermarriage has evolved from being illegal, to be a taboo and then to be merely unusual.

And with each passing year, it becomes less unusual," said Paul Taylor, director of Pew's Social & Demographic Trends project.

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