Endogamy is the practice of marrying within a specific ethnic group, class, or social group, rejecting others on such bases as being unsuitable for marriage or other close personal relationships. A Jewish endogamist, for example, would require that a marriage be only with another Jew.
Endogamy is common in many cultures and ethnic groups. Several ethnic religious groups are traditionally more endogamous, although sometimes with the added dimension of requiring marital religious conversion, permitting an ostensibly endogamous marriage to be performed since the convert has accepted the partner’s culture. Certain groups such as Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews have practised endogamy as an inherent part of their religious beliefs and traditions.
Proponents claim that endogamy encourages group affiliation and bonding. It is a common practice among displanted cultures attempting to make roots in new countries while still resisting complete integration, as it encourages group solidarity and ensures greater control over group resources – which may be important to preserve when a group is attempting to establish itself within an alien culture.
Endogamy can serve as a form of self-segregation and helps a community to resist integrating and completely merging with surrounding populations. It thus helps minorities to survive as separate communities over a long time, in societies with other practices and beliefs.
Ethno-religious groups which have successfully resisted complete integration for the longest, for example the Romany gypsies and the Ashkenazi Jews of Europe, practise a higher level of endogamy.
Endogamy also plays an important role in social stratification of different social factors, such as occupations, activities, or education. This type of social endogamy is apparent in the United States because occupations have become a chief form of social networking for many adults after college. For instance, actors and actresses generally marry or bond with people in a similar industry.
Class endogamy affects social mobility: children of top executives have an easier time following a similar path as their parents due to similarities between the two, but also the power that executives have in modern corporations allowing them to influence hiring and promotion decisions. Elite families generally contribute to endogamy within big business, producing social links that are carried forward and keep certain groups restrictive. There have been such rapid changes in business and technology, however, that new fields open up where people of achievement can create new hierarchies. Professions also establish endogamy: A child growing with doctor parents, for instance, learns to be at home in that world and is likely to choose a similar education and career; a son or daughter of a famous actor or musician has a much greater chance of becoming a successful performer compared to the son or daughter of an average worker.