In the fall of 2009, dating website OKCupid published a semi-controversial study on racial preference in online dating. Now, another group ventures to provide insight on the way race impacts online dating in the United States. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley conducted a study analyzing stated preferences and online dating patterns. The study has yet to be published but has some results available in a university press release. It concludes that the United States hasn’t yet reached a post-racial era. Which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
The study, following the method of OKCupid, considered the online preferences of more than one million subscribers to a mainstream online dating service. Each subscriber stated a dating preference: for someone of their own race, for someone outside of their race, or for someone of any race. The researchers’ focus was on the racial preferences of blacks and whites, with secondary concern given to other racial and ethnic groups.
So who was the most willing to online date outside of their race? The study found that young, black, and male daters were the most likely to state they had no preference and were open to dating women of any race.
Women were most likely to state some sort of preference, as were whites and older people. But what was more interesting was that even the white men and women who claimed to have no preference had initiating and response patterns which indicated preference for other whites.
White men and women were more likely to contact whites than they were to contact other groups. Upwards of 80 percent of whites who stated “no preference” contacted whites. On the other extreme, around 5 percent of these “no preference” whites had any contact with black daters. The numbers were even more imbalanced when it came to initiating contact. While the percentage of messages sent by whites to others whites was the same as the number who had any contact with whites, only 3 percent of contacts sent by whites were to black subscribers. However, blacks, especially black women, also initiated contact with those of their own race more than they initiated contact with whites.
The lead researcher, psychologist Greg Mendelsohn, offers a simplistic theory for why blacks were more likely to contact whites than the reverse: social gain. He says that blacks may be trying to move up in social status by intermarrying with whites. He neglects to mention that there may be some self-selection involved — blacks on a mainstream dating website may be more open to dating interracially than blacks on majority black dating websites. That wouldn’t be the case with whites who make up the majority on dating websites. Depending on the percentages of each race involved, ratios must also be taken into account.
The UC Berkeley study is scheduled to be released in the near future. Until then, a more thorough analysis of the methods and results will have to wait.