Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Racial Preference in Dating is Bad News for Black Women

The online matching site OKCupid has a fascinating analysis of how likely people are to respond to one another by race. The headline finding is that women of all races are disproportionately likely to send messages to white men, and men of all races are disproportionately unlikely to respond to black women.

I am particularly interested in improving the black marriage rate. I was, therefore, also drawn to two other points in the OKCupid report. When asked "Would you strongly prefer to date someone of your own skin color/racial background?" women in almost all racial groups said yes more than men. The overall yes responses to this question were 46% for women, 34% for men. For African Americans, though, the rates were 22% for women, 11% for men. Black men have the lowest percent preferring to date in their own race of any group.

Putting these facts together we get some pretty grim news for black women's marriage prospects.

I do not read these results as simply showing racism - that is, an absolute rejection of another race. When asked "Is interracial marriage a bad idea?" only 6% say yes. I do read these results as showing the status structure. There is still a racial status structure in America, with whites on the top and blacks on the bottom. Most people, quite reasonably, wish to marry at their same status level or higher. The groups at the bottom of the status ladder are the least likely to marry.

Now, race is not the only aspect of status, and status is not the only consideration in marriage. I am confident that race is declining in significance in all things, marriage chances included. Class increasingly beats race. Nonetheless, every status hierarchy makes some difference in the mating market, and race is still a status hierarchy.

(Thanks to BA for putting me on to OKCupid.)


Black Sea said...

Number one, I'm quite surprised by the conclusion that women of all races are disproportinately likely to contact white men. I have read other studies that indicate that black women strongly prefer to date/marry black men, or possibly hispanics, who in some parts of the country, are frequently of African descent.

Number two, do you have any evidence that these differences are the result of racial status, or is this more of a guess/assumption?

Since you are pursuing this topic, you may find this study on interracial dating patterns interesting.

randy said...

i'm VERY skeptical that black women are much interested in dating white men...