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I was at a party when I spied “Dataclysm,” a number-crunching book written by OkCupid Co-Founder Christian Rudder, on an end table. Now, I try to avoid talking about dating industry trends in my real life, but I love this book, so I couldn’t help but ask the party’s host what she thought of its many stats.
“Yeah, it’s interesting,” she said. “I didn’t realize how racist online dating can be. It’s definitely made me think twice about who I respond to online.”
OK, first of all, online dating isn’t racist — the book’s data reveals certain racial biases in online attractiveness (measured by likes and response rates), but online dating isn’t at fault for user behavior. Racial attitudes influence online dating in fundamental ways, and learning more about those patterns can help individuals be more conscious of their choices and feel more open to dating people of all races. In that spirit, we’ve put together a list of the seven most surprising statistics about race and online dating.
Racial biases are usually negative, but sometimes they involve giving preferential treatment to particular types of people. So the good news for white men and Asian women is they are the most sought-after demographics on dating sites.
According to data from Facebook’s app Are You Interested, Asian women see much higher response rates from white (17.6%), Latino (15.8%), and black (26%) men. Women, in general, see three times more interactions than men do, but Asian women were particularly successful at catching a man’s interest.
Additionally, Asian, Latino, and white women all respond more frequently to white men. Maybe these guys are just really smooth talkers. Or, maybe patriarchal values have influenced women’s dating preferences. It’s hard to tell from the raw data exactly what’s going on, but, at least for now, white men seem to have an advantage over black, Latino, and Asian men.
Quartz’s researchers studied over 2.4 million heterosexual interactions on Are You Interested to determine if online daters had racial biases and what those were. Overall, they found black men and black women receive significantly fewer I’m-interested ratings than other races do.
Although black women responded the most positively toward black men, all other races responded the least to this demographic. And all men, regardless of race, responded the least to black women.
OkCupid came to similar conclusions in its assessment of race and attraction. “Black women reply the most, yet get by far the fewest replies,” the dating experts said. “Essentially every race — including other blacks — singles them out for the cold shoulder.”
So you know how people say there’s an exception to every rule? Well, it’s true in online dating as well. The Quartz Media graphic shows men of all races — except Asian men — prefer Asian women. Asian men respond more to single Latina women, marking themselves as interested 19% of the time.
According to OkCupid’s internal data, Asian men receive fewer messages and matches overall, so maybe they simply shy away from Asian women’s highly competitive online dating profiles.
Maybe low self-esteem factors into Asian men’s dating decisions. As Zachary Schwartz, a 22-year-old journalist in the UK, said, “Growing up as an Asian guy, you start to think certain ways about yourself… the phraseology used when I was growing up was ‘Asian guys don’t get girls.'”
Whatever the reasoning behind it, Asian men don’t seem to have yellow fever the way other men on dating sites do. Elise Hu of NPR summed it up best when she said, “The results of this study only perpetuate social problems for both sexes involved.”
Black women were another notable exception in Quartz’s study of online attraction. Black women showed the most interest in black men, while women of other races heavily preferred white men. Black women seem most drawn to date prospects of their own race — even though black men have a low interest rating of 16.5% to black women.
OkCupid has hundreds upon hundreds of personal questions that it uses to create a personality profile and match percentage for every user. The site has been collecting this data for years, so it can show how user opinions on specific issues have changed over time.
When it comes to racial attitudes, OkCupid users have professed to be less biased and more opposed to racism in general.
As you can see in the graph above, in 2008, about 27% of OkCupid users reported that they would date someone with a vocal racial bias. In 2014, only 10% of users said they’d be willing to entertain a racist date. That’s progress!
That same article also showed a steady decline in the number of people who said they would prefer to date someone of their own race. In 2008, 42% of OkCupid users said they’d prefer to keep to their own when dating. By 2014, that number had dropped to around 35% of users.
The blog post concludes, “Answers to match questions have been getting significantly less biased over time.”
Side note: The person’s race does influence his or her answer to this question because 85% of non-whites said they’d prefer to date outside their race versus just 65% of white people who said the same.
Furthermore, in 2014 the OkCupid team saw a decline in users answering yes to the question “Is interracial marriage a bad idea?” Less than 4% of users in 2014 answered that they think interracial marriage is a bad idea.
The user base’s response to this question is pretty overwhelmingly in favor of interracial marriage. According to OkCupid’s 2017 question audit, only 1% of users skipped this question. Everyone else felt pretty decided about their opinions on the matter. Clearly, most people think this is a no-brainer. The interracial question is ranked among the 10 least skipped questions on the site.
Of course, people are free to lie in their answers to these questions, and, given that a majority of users say they’d refuse to date a racist person, it’s probably in everyone’s best interest to answer in favor of interracial marriage and avoid offending or enraging strangers on the internet. Still, it’s encouraging to see so many people categorically accept interracial marriage, which was illegal in the US until 1967.
“Dataclysm” is a wonderfully thoughtful and eye-opening assessment of how people date in the modern age. Its studies prompt readers to reassess their online dating behavior and see themselves as part of a larger social framework.
Some of stats about racial biases on dating sites aren’t so encouraging (especially if you’re a black woman or an Asian man), but none of these numbers are set in stone. We have the power to change our dating habits and make online dating a more pleasant and welcoming to people of all races. Single men and women can become part of the solution by stepping outside their comfort zones and sending a message to someone they may have otherwise overlooked on a dating site.
Even if it’s not love at first sight, you should give someone a chance to change your mind and win you over. Who knows? You might just get a great date out of it.
As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” He almost certainly wasn’t talking about dating, but, hey, you’ve got to start somewhere.