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High global prevalence is in itself a reason to study consanguinity — about 10.4 percent of the world’s population is married to a second cousin or closer, or is the product of such a union: That’s about 750 million people.Marriage between cousins wasn’t always prohibited in America.Immigration is relevant because consanguinity is much more common in some other countries.In fact, Bittles himself first became interested in the topic during a research trip to the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore in 1977.

Bans on cousin marriage were introduced at the same time as part of a post-Civil War acceptance of the need for oversight, even in personal matters.Sociological studies have found that a relationship with a relative can be more stable because couples can maintain the same social relationships before and after marriage.Other reasons include health and financial security (the idea being that you’re more likely to keep secrets hidden from a stranger than a relative) and, for women, the chance to stay closer to their parents and have a better relationship with in-laws.A brief reminder here, Daryn, if, like me, you get confused about who is a second cousin: It’s someone who shares a great-grandparent with you.The first-cousin marriages you’re asking about are just one type of consanguineous relationship (that’s pronounced kon-sang-gwin-ee-uh s in case you were struggling, as I was).Before then, he was “unaware that such marriages occurred in major populations,” he told me.

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