pageok
pageok
pageok
Research on Interracial Dating:

There is no doubt that prejudice against interracial dating has declined over the last several decades, and that the practice has become far more common than it once was. At the same time, as New York Times columnist John Tierney points out in this recent post, a high proportion of the population still has strong preferences for dating people of the same race. Tierney summarizes several recent studies that summarize this perhaps unsurprising finding. One of the most interesting studies quoted by Tierney is this recent analysis of preferences in online dating, which concludes that the same-race preference may be extremely strong:

For equal success with an African-American woman [relative to an African-American man], a Hispanic man needs to earn an extra $184,000 [in annual income]; a white man needs to earn an additional $220,000.

For equal success with a white woman [relative to a white man], an African-American needs to earn an additional $154,000; a Hispanic man needs $77,000; an Asian needs $247,000.

For equal success with a Hispanic woman [relative to a Hispanic man], an African-American man needs to earn an additional $30,000; a white man needs to earn an additional $59,000.

For equal success with an Asian woman [relative to an Asian man], an African-American needs no additional income; a white man needs $24,000 less than average; a Hispanic man needs $28,000 more than average.

The research is extremely interesting (even if somewhat depressing). But there are two potentially important omitted factors that I think should be included. The first is the subject's racial group's percentage of the local population where he or she resides. If the person in question lives in an area where her group makes up 80 or 90 percent of the population, she loses very little by choosing to avoid interracial dating. She still has 80 or 90% of the relevant "market" to choose from. By contrast, if her group is a tiny minority, she is passing up far more potential dating opportunities. This may partially explain why whites and blacks are, on average, more reluctant to engage in interracial dating than members of other ethnic and racial groups, particularly Asian-Americans. Whites and blacks are more likely than Asians and Hispanics to live in areas where their group is either in the majority or at least a very large minority - although we should not forget the greater historical prejudice against African-Americans as well.

The second important omitted variable is the strength of the subject's other preferences in a mate, besides race. The higher your standards for beauty, intelligence, income, social skills, and so forth, the less you can afford to also cut out a large percentage of the dating pool by foregoing interracial dating. The same is true if your standards are hard to meet because they are simply unusual rather than high (e.g. - if you insist that your romantic partner have exactly the same religious or political beliefs, even if the beliefs you hold are uncommon). By contrast, if your other standards are relatively easy to meet, you can probably find a romantic partner even if you are unwilling to date outside your racial group, and you therefore have less incentive to compromise on your racial preferences.

If I am right, then people are more likely to be receptive to interracial dating if they 1) live in an area where their group is a small minority, and 2) have hard to satisfy nonracial standards for their significant other.

UPDATE: A number of commenters note that I may be "ignoring" various other relevant variables such as cultural differences between groups. I did not claim in the post to have identified every relevant variable. I merely noted two that may be very important, but have been neglected in the studies. I also did not claim that ALL reluctance to engage in interracial dating is the result of "prejudice." However, some significant part of it probably is. Cultural differences alone cannot account for the fact that there is much greater reluctance to engage in interracial dating with blacks than with other groups despite the fact that cultural differences between blacks and whites are, on average, probably smaller than those between native-born whites and recent Hispanic or Asian-American immigrants.

wgwag:
WGWAG WGWAG AW YEAH
4.16.2007 2:04am
Pendulum (mail):
Perhaps psychological reasons play heavily as well. I suspect one reason I am (almost) exclusively attracted to white women is because I grew up in an area which was almost exclusively white.
4.16.2007 2:12am
Edward Trent (mail):
Whatever the reasons, it seems that Asian-American men are the most fucked. [The rest of this comment has been deleted because highly inappropriate and probably racist. I rarely take such measures (it's only the second time I've ever deleted a comment). But occasionally even my tolerance level is exceeded. - IS].
4.16.2007 2:12am
jvarisco (www):
What about culture? Certainly people with similar backgrounds are more likely to be compatible. They are also probably the same race. There's not that many African-American Italians, for example. Even if there was no prejudice whatsoever, the majority of matings would be between similar races simply due to cultural factors.
4.16.2007 2:14am
DG:
Dating those of similar social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds is far from depressing - its sensible. Romance is tough. Marriage is hard. How much tough is it when you have additional stressors on the relationship that arise from heterodox relationships? There is certainly nothing wrong with inter-racial dating, but there is no denying that it is a tougher road to follow. Of course, the same can be said for socio-economic status - two upper middle class professionals of differing ethnicities may have significantly better luck than those from "different sides of the tracks" as it were.

The other part of this to keep in mind - "race" is pseudoscience at best. What is "Hispanic"? This is all self-identification and is therefore somewhat suspect.
4.16.2007 2:16am
LTEC (mail) (www):
I do not "choose" what I find attractive, whether it be race, age, height, looks, etc. There is nothing intellectual about it. I do not consider such choices to be prejudice.
4.16.2007 2:35am
jim:
This is all self-identification and is therefore somewhat suspect.

A poster on TiernyLab expresses this same sentiment, going as far as to bring in the "race has no basis in genetics" argument.

But I don't know why that is relevant. We are talking about cultural phenomena, not biological phenomena, so what matters is how the society classifies people, biological basis or no. People's racial self-identifications don't tend to differ dramatically from how others in the same society will identify them, so I don't see why self-identification is problematic.

I suppose follow up research could look at how apparent racial ambiguity affects people's preferences.
4.16.2007 2:39am
Eric Barrett:
Ilya, your supposition isn't borne out by my own experience. I went to high school about 12 years ago in a Northern California school that was 8% white, 40% Asian -- mostly Vietnamese. The remainder were mostly Hispanic, who were in turn mostly not English speakers and did not broadly socialize outside their ethnicity, so the crowd I was in was about 20% white and 80% Asian.

Even back then, it was a truism that Asian women would date white men, but Asian men were much less likely to date white women. I never asked people about it directly, because it would have been pretty damn rude, but I got the feeling it was a mutual choice, across both gender/ethnicity divides.

In such an environment, the Asian women would not have lost that many dating partners, and yet some continued to date white men even in the face of ostracism from their parents and families. And given the strong family bond in most Asian cultures, that ostracism was sometimes significant.

Of course, maybe that was the goal. We were teenagers, after all ;)
4.16.2007 2:43am
jim:
So, this is idle speculation, but I wonder how inter-racial children and trans-racial adoption figure into this. I come from an almost entirely white area, but trans-racially adopted Asian children were relatively common.

I wonder if that does something to soften people's mental distinction between Asians and Whites, and if that has any effect on whether people would cross that racial line in order to date. Just speculation mind you, and it wouldn't necessarily do much to explain the data.
4.16.2007 2:58am
BobNSF (mail):

even if somewhat depressing


Why is it somewhat depressing?
4.16.2007 2:58am
joe (mail):
As an asian guy, I find this truly depressing. Not only has American society and culture pushed the white female as the ideal mating partner, Asian men have been stereotyped to the point where at least in this study they are the most discriminated against by their prospective love interest. Asian men are overwhelmingly portrayed in mass media as either geeky nerds or asexual martial artists or wise men or both (Long Duc Dong in Sixteen Candles and Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid).

Per this study, to attract a white mate an Asian man who makes $50K needs to make $297,000 (top 1 percent pop.) while to attract a Asian mate a white man needs only to make $26K (top 80+ percent pop.)
4.16.2007 3:11am
wyh:
Another thing the study doesn't address is that the dating pool is international, especially with foreign-born or 1st generation born in America.

For Asian-american men, it's not uncommon to meet their spouse during visit to ancestral country. The same is much more uncommon for Asian-american women.

I didn't read the whole report, but it seems it's based on the data from a "generic" online dating service. By registering in such service, the ethic minority users are already signalling some acceptance to inter-racial daing. Otherwise, there are a number of specialized services (i.e. Jdate) for people who want to exclusively date within their own groups. Especailly for the bilingual ethic minorities, there are online dating website in various languages.
4.16.2007 3:55am
wyh:
Ethnic not ethic.
4.16.2007 4:04am
Cornellian (mail):
I doubt a preference for dating one's own race can really be said to be a prejudice against another race, any more than a preference for dating blonde women constitutes a prejudice against brunettes. Feeling attracted primarily to women of one's own race is hardly the same as having any objections to the idea of interracial dating.
4.16.2007 4:08am
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):
Well, this is good news if you're a white man who likes Asian women:


For equal success with an Asian woman [relative to an Asian man] ... a white man needs $24,000 less than average;


Although I'm not clear whether this refers to the national average or the average for Asian males.
4.16.2007 4:35am
davidbernstein (mail):
From the original study: "A man who is 5 feet 6 inches tall, for example, needs an additional $175,000 to be as desirable as a man who is approximately 6 feet tall (the median height in our sample) and who makes $62,500 per
year."

I think this pretty clearly isn't true in the "real world", so online dating apparently skews preferences toward one's "fantasy" man. Also, the average man isn't six feet tall, so this suggests that men are routinely exaggerating their height, and one can assume that shorter men are more likely to do this than taller men. Women may suspect that the purported 5'6" man is really a few inches shorter, which as some point does cause problems for men. The bottom line is that men engaging in online dating should, to be more successful, exaggerate their height by at least two inches, because everyone else is, and women with online dating experience will discount their height accordingly.
4.16.2007 4:58am
John McCall (mail):
Well, this is certainly the most facially suspect paper I've heard discussed in awhile. Tell me, how large is the population of single hispanic men making $250k and using online dating sites, such that we can generalize about their success in wooing black women? Which broad ethnic group, exactly, is meant by "Asian", or have the authors finally recognized the fundamental cultural sameness of the Sikh and the Yakut? Where is the sense in discussing huge income differences as an independent factor in dating preference, as if dentists were just highly-paid steelworkers who happen to work with teeth?
4.16.2007 5:34am
Paranoid:
Illya asks what the results would be in a more heterogeneous society. It's a valid question and one that can be easily answered. Many (most?) of our college campuses are more diverse than the typical "home-neighborhood." If we find that dating habits in such environments are not as racially exclusive, then we may have something to talk about. But if we find that those dating habits are just as (in my personal experience perhaps more so) racially exlusive, there may be nothing to talk about. In my limited time on this planet, I have found that like attracts like. People congregate among those that are similar to themselves - be it race, religion, political affiliation or anything else. As some previous commentators have alluded, this may be a biological mechanism. It may be a politically incorrect mechanism but I see no reason to identify it as such or to hate it. It is a natural clan-orienting tendency. In terms of tolerance, we humans may have come a long (or not so long, depending how one looks at it) way in the past few hundred years. But we inevitably embrace what is familiar. No matter how intellectual we may think of ourselves, we are still subject to primal tendencies.
4.16.2007 5:46am
zhongliu (mail):
4.16.2007 5:55am
dfgdgd (mail):
4.16.2007 5:58am
logicnazi (mail) (www):
I think you are heavily underestimating the impact of culture here. Different racial groups still (unfortunately) have different cultures that make dating very difficult. Move over, it isn't just the direct effect of culture but the way people who have the culture and personalities we are attracted to shape our idea of good looking. In other words physical attraction creates a strong multiplying effect to these other influences.

For instance I certainly know that I tend to find girls attractive who look like other girls I have gotten along well with or dated. For instance I never used to be that into Asian girls until I started dating a half-Asian girl and then Asian girls became much more attractive to me. Similarly I'm sure that my preference for brunettes as opposed to blonds comes from the first girl I dated. On the other hand since my peers and friends have tended to be somewhat nerdy/intellectualism girls I don't end up finding the cheerleader/popular girl type that appealing.

Frankly, I think almost all of this effect can be explained by the cultural/environmental (who you work/play with) effects. I see very little racial preferences in math grad school nor did I at caltech (except the Asian/Indians wanting to date their own). However, these environments are almost entirely culturally homogeneous. Also they are mostly white, Indian and Asian.

Culture explains why Asian-white relationships are so much more common while simple aversion to other races does not.
4.16.2007 6:39am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Asian men are overwhelmingly portrayed in mass media as either geeky nerds or asexual martial artists or wise men or both (Long Duc Dong in Sixteen Candles and Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid).
Joe, the data may or may not be right, and your explanation may or may not be right, but if you're going to talk about how people are "overwhelmingly portrayed in mass media," shouldn't you pick something other than two two-decade-old examples?
4.16.2007 8:10am
JK:
Great points John McCall.
4.16.2007 9:27am
Al Maviva (mail) (www):
So if you're telling a classic setup joke to a mixed-race group of women on an internet forum, it should probably begin:

Three guys walk into a bar: a guy who is 5'6" and makes $225,000, a guy who dates Asian-American girls but only makes $26,000, and a guy who is fabulously attractive but makes no money. The bartender says...
4.16.2007 9:31am
IANAD:
I didn't see anyone else mention it, so slap me if it's covered: Did the study account for the differences in average income across different classifications? If not, then the apparently high bar for Asian men, for example, may be influenced by the fact that they have higher than average incomes.

Add that to the other variables mentioned in the OP and comments, and this study seems more and more meaningless.
4.16.2007 10:01am
jfalk:
I just read the study and the issue being cited here is accurate, but highly misleading. It's not as if black women require an extra $220,000. Indeed, income in the study is top-coded at $200,000. What is happening is that black women have a very low disposition of dating white men (logit coeff. of -1.4, for those who understand this stuff) and an very low coefficient on income. That is, all things equal, they'd rather date non-white men, and furthermore, to the extent they're willing to date white men, money isn't very important, so it takes a lot of it to make up the difference. By the way, this income coefficient for women (0.0171 per $1000) is measured across all women, so that it's difficult even to draw the inference that the fixed cultural effect (whatever it in fact measures) is equally balanced across income levels by racial match.
4.16.2007 10:06am
jallgor (mail):
I have often thought about the phenomenon of interracial dating and I have come up with a theory that I admit is solely based on anecdotal experience. Here it is:
First, most people tend to date their own race. Second, women control the dating world. As a man, you may love all kinds of women but if they don't like you back you've got problems. Third, I believe we have perpetuated a stereotyped version of masculinity in this country. The order is generally the following: black, hispanic, white and asian, going from most masculine to least (remember I am not saying I beleive this, I am saying that I believe our society perpetuates these stereotypes). Now on those occasions where women date outside their race I believe that they are more likely to date up the chain of stereotyped masculinity than down. I think most of this, like attraction itself, operates on the subconscious level. Anyway, this is the reason I have come up with for why I rarely see an asian man with a black woman but often see black men with women of all races. Obviously, it's not a scientific approach to the subject. The study in this article seems to get at my theory a bit but it seems pretty poorly done. I would love it if a serious study would explore my theory.
4.16.2007 10:50am
Martin Grant (mail):
shouldn't you pick something other than two two-decade-old examples?

Maybe he should. Maybe he shouldn't. I think there's an argument to be made that who you date in your twenties and thirties may be influenced by the media you were exposed to when you were in your early formative years.

Perhaps the most relevant influence on current day dating will always be the media from two decades ago.
4.16.2007 10:53am
Houston Lawyer:
This survey seems to have it exactly backwards.

Many black men like to date white women, but not many white men like to date black women. Many white men like to date Asian women, but not many white women like to date Asian men.

Just ask a black woman or an Asian man. These groups have strong feelings on this issue since they both come out on the short end of the stick. Income has little to do with any of it.
4.16.2007 11:43am
Stacy (mail) (www):
logicnazi: "Culture explains why Asian-white relationships are so much more common while simple aversion to other races does not."

I agree. If it were possible to do a regression analysis on these things, I suspect you'd find that the variable with the largest coefficient would be similar cultural background. People ruled by gangsters probably think people living in rule-of-law societies are naive, while the rule-of-law types consider the gang-ruled peasants either poor victims or savages (for just one example.) That's still a form of prejudice, but different and probably more intractable from the one based on skin color.
4.16.2007 11:48am
Thomas J. Webb (mail) (www):
Preference for race is a matter of attraction, something you don't have control over. It's easy to imagine biological reasons for most people's preference for racially similar people; perhaps to maintain climate-specific adaptations? It's not racist or bowing to parental pressure to be attracted so. (note: I'm White and much, much more attracted to Asian girls than to White girls, but I'm sure I'm unusual in that respect. It is interesting that my uncle is the same way; I've never seen him with a White girl, ever.)

Preference for culture is a matter of culture and makes sense. You generally want to be with someone culturally compatible (unless you think girls/guys from your culture happen to be jerks). Love and marriage are difficult enough without vast cultural differences.

I think the other posters are on to something by suggesting looking at culture instead of race, looking at immigration status, etc.
4.16.2007 11:52am
Aultimer:
I really object to macro-level correlation being expressed the way it is in the post "a white guy has to X" - it makes the correlation relationship appear to be a causation relationship and individually controlled.

It makes less juicy headlines, but it's more fair to say "based on the data collected, white guys with similar other characteristics are reported to be similarly attractive to X only when income levels are Y".
4.16.2007 11:56am
Randy R. (mail):
Joe: "As an asian guy, I find this truly depressing. Not only has American society and culture pushed the white female as the ideal mating partner, Asian men have been stereotyped to the point where at least in this study they are the most discriminated against by their prospective love interest. "

Hey, Joe, cheer up. At least you CAN get married. I can't, unless I live in Massachusetts, and even then it's not recognized at a federal level.
4.16.2007 12:12pm
Daniel950:
All of you are ignoring the most striking finding this research shows: the conclusion that a given the right "price", a woman's affection could basically be purchased with just the right amount of cash.

Was this monetary point obvious? Are the women in the study are shallow? Or are they not shallow because this is true for all women?

Remember that joke with the line ending: "We've already established what you are, now we're just haggling on price."
4.16.2007 12:12pm
Chris B (mail):
For equal success with a white woman [relative to a white man], an African-American needs to earn an additional $154,000.....

Excuse me?!?!?! I know the plural of anecdote ain't data but this doesn't seem to fit any black/white couple I've ever seen outside Hollywood.
4.16.2007 12:27pm
Latinist:
I don't know much about online dating, but I wonder if this is also being affected by the fact that race is something that can be pretty easily and objectively determined from an online profile. If you're looking at online profiles, aren't you sort of forced to rely on such things (at first, anyway), rather than, say, personal charm, or whether you like someone's friends? That would also explain why height seems to be more important than you'd think it would be.
4.16.2007 12:48pm
AntonK (mail):
Well, if lack of interracial dating is because of prejudice, then perhaps we should legislate it. "You must date at least one person of another race, or you're fired!"
4.16.2007 12:58pm
Buckland (mail):
Nature hard wires us to be attracted to people that are very similar to us. That similarty includes race, but also economic status, education attainment, religion and a host of other factors. I'll wager that a similar set of salary differentials could be found for college educated marrying high school dropout, Jew marrying Catholic, and even liberal marrying conservative.

Back at the turn of the 20th century in the US South it was an outrage when a good Protestant girl (like my G-Grandmother) would stoop so low as to marry an Irish (then pronounced in one syllable -- Arsh -- like my G-Grandfather). Such mixed marriages were frowned upon and actively discouraged.

The discouragement had a good foundation in fact. Extended families were the social safety net that everybody depended on in bad times. All families would have bad times -- bad economic times, death, disease -- and going to the uncles and cousins for help. If a family is "like us" then everybody knew the help would be there in bad times. However back in the Virginia hollows of the time nobody was sure that an Arsh family would be there when they reach the "sickness" and "poorer" parts of the wedding vows, especially for the rest of the family. A woman would be crazy to get involved without making sure that there's sufficient money available to take care of her, the kids, and any other family member that needs temporary help.

But the government social safety net has changed that. Few people take in their second cousins anymore, or care for bachelor Uncle Bob. Now it's not as much of a risk to marry somebody from a different background. The government assumes the role of temporary provider when things go bad.
4.16.2007 1:28pm
CJColucci:
As I once told the black woman who is now may wife: "I'm no great liberal, I just want to get laid. Why make the odds any worse?"
She married me anyway, a source of constant delight and wonder.
4.16.2007 1:31pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
If you had asked me in 1978 what my preference would have been in who to get to married to, based on looks alone, I would have guessed a Japanese-American or Chinese-American. I don't know why, but I have always found Asian women very, very attractive.

Yet when I finally got married, it was to a redheaded white gal. Why? She used the word "cognizant" in an appropriate way at a Bible study, and I found myself saying, "I need to get to know this gal better."

People that express strong preferences on race and appearance on an online dating site may not be a good indicator of the state of the whole society.
4.16.2007 1:36pm
A.C.:
How does this work for men? Are white men more likely to date black women who make a lot of money? Women's earnings are not irrelevant these days... the men I know certainly consider them.

Really, though, I just think upper middle class people are more likely to date across racial lines than lower middle class people. Maybe attending the same schools and working in the same professions helps break down barriers that remain in place for people who stay in the "old neighborhood." Also, there are relatively few upper middle class people out there, so the numbers game that some people have mentioned becomes more relevant.
4.16.2007 1:46pm
Porkchop:
Just to throw one more factor into the mix: My Korean mother-in-law advised my wife to, at all costs, marry anyone other than a Korean boy. She described them as spoiled, pampered, and over-indulged by their mothers as children and said they would expect the same thing from their wives as adults. Something to do with Umma's personal experience, I guess . . . . We don't see Appa much -- he moved back to Korea. Umma had no intention of giving up her new-found freedom, though, so she's still in the US.

I don't know how broadly that sentiment was shared, though.

Anyway, I lucked out. :-)
4.16.2007 1:51pm
jfalk:
Two more things. First, the authors themselves acknowledge my point above: "Of course, these [income tradeoff] results should not be taken fully literally—functional form assumptions, distributional assumptions, and sampling error will generally influence the precise income compensation numbers."
Secondly, the purest example is from people who don't report their income, which is about 35 percent of men. For these men, the positive coefficient is roughly equal yo the negative coefficient for black women choosing white men. So an equal way of stating this is that "if a white man doesn't report his income, a black woman is about equally likely to take him as anyone else, all things equal."
4.16.2007 1:53pm
CWuestefeld (mail) (www):
It's interesting that so many people here correlate culture so strongly with race. My wife is a Chinese immigrant (I'm Caucasian, born in America). Certainly there are differences in things we expect, and many of these derive from our areas of origin (we had to pay for our own wedding: in America the bride's family pays, but in China it falls to the groom's).

The thing is, there are so many other types of cultural differences. For example, she grew up in Shanghai -- one of the biggest cities in the world -- while I grew up in a rural farming town. It's (subjectively) just as frequently the city mouse / country mouse differences that pop up as the Chinese/American thing. IMHO, the industry of racial identity does us all a disservice by underscoring that one type of difference, thus muting awareness of our other differences.

And, interestingly, when the differences are from the Chinese/American thing, these are usually easy to spot. And it's easier to overcome the obvious differences than the subtle ones that run below the surface.

The double standard between men and women in cross-racial relationships is also striking. My wife's uncle (the patriarch of the family) actively objected to her marrying me, despite his long and successful marriage to a white woman.

FWIW, though, I don't get the sense that people are uncomfortable around our mixed marriage, or even that people look at us funny (except to the extent that my wife is a hottie :)
4.16.2007 1:56pm
Mark Field (mail):

Well, if lack of interracial dating is because of prejudice, then perhaps we should legislate it. "You must date at least one person of another race, or you're fired!"


We tried that policy (or its opposite, anyway). Didn't work out so well.
4.16.2007 2:15pm
jallgor (mail):
Houston Lawyer said:
"Many black men like to date white women, but not many white men like to date black women. Many white men like to date Asian women, but not many white women like to date Asian men."

I think you've got it wrong there. I don't know very many white men who chategorically don't find black women attractive. Conversely, I have had at least 5 or 6 black women tell me they could never date a white guy because they just don't find them attractive. The black woman's stereotypical complaint is not that white guys won't date them it's that women of other races are "stealing" all the eligible black males. They never complain about the lack of eligible whites and asians because they aren't willing to date them anyway. I go back to my theory described above. Everyone is more likely to date within their race. Whe people date outside their race, Men will date whover they can while women or more likely to only be willing to date up the chain of stereotyped masculinity.
4.16.2007 2:28pm
Stacy (mail) (www):
"It's interesting that so many people here correlate culture so strongly with race. My wife is a Chinese immigrant (I'm Caucasian, born in America). Certainly there are differences in things we expect, and many of these derive from our areas of origin (we had to pay for our own wedding: in America the bride's family pays, but in China it falls to the groom's).

The thing is, there are so many other types of cultural differences. For example, she grew up in Shanghai -- one of the biggest cities in the world -- while I grew up in a rural farming town. It's (subjectively) just as frequently the city mouse / country mouse differences that pop up as the Chinese/American thing. IMHO, the industry of racial identity does us all a disservice by underscoring that one type of difference, thus muting awareness of our other differences.
"

I think the point most of us are trying to make is in agreement with yours i.e. race and culture superficially appear to correlate, but in reality certain cultural groups with some basic things in common easily cross racial boundaries, while others that are more fundamentally different have a harder time.
4.16.2007 2:41pm
wooga:
Nature hard wires us to be attracted to people that are very similar to us.

So I guess marrying your sister is perfectly natural :/

Buckland, I'm pretty sure that every study shows that you are 100% wrong. Nature hard wires people to seek out genetic diversity, in order to avoid inbreeding. The "similarity" would be an entirely social construct.

Really, most of the 'attraction' stuff can be explained on physical attributes. Modern industrial man tends to seek out small, delicate women. Females still seek out tall strong men. All the people in this thread baffled at the "asian-woman and white-man" pairs seem to willingly ignore this basic component of physical attraction. (Note, the social acceptance cost/benefit generally discourages the asian-woman from selecting a black-man)

I suspect one reason I am (almost) exclusively attracted to white women is because I grew up in an area which was almost exclusively white.

Pendulum, that's weird. I (midwestern white boy of scot-irish stock) grew up around almost exclusively tall pale blond white women. Interestingly, I now have very little attraction to tall pale blonds. Instead, I am highly attracted to dark skinned, short brunettes. Hispanic, persian, punjabi, are generally 'my type.' Thus, my wife is Persian. Her attraction to me is apparently in part because I have the 'good' facial features of Persian men, without the 'bad' attributes of short, bald, or mean.
4.16.2007 2:46pm
mikep (mail):
Daniel950 wrote, wrt to the "additional income to do as well as the physically perfect male": "Are the women in the study are shallow? Or are they not shallow because this is true for all women?"

Individual women weren't interviewed about this; it's the cold hard calculations of "who did the women respond to in the online dating service?" So yes, objectively, women who use online dating services are "shallow" enough to care about money.

On the other side, the same comparison with males selecting females shows that no amount of extra income can make up for a deficiency in looks (additional income does not net a statistically greater number of responses), so the males are equally "shallow" about looks.

Of course, if (given the reasonably-infinite dating pool of a large online dating service) it surprises a person that women are after money (as a proxy for stability) and males are after hotties... I think that person has a tenuous grasp on reality. If you've got a whole pile of people who might be compatible on a personal level, why not sort by riches/hotness first and personality second? The former is much easier.
4.16.2007 3:18pm
meinstwok (mail):
When reading through the comments at Tierney's page, I was surprised at the number of black women who feel that men of other races don't find black women attractive. This perception (whether actually true or not) could explain some of the study's findings.

The level of attraction a person's partner has for that person will be directly related to the value that person places on their relationship.

One, it feels good to be sexually desired by someone. (Given the relative effort the sexes put into appearance, I believe women value this even more than men.) The more one's partner desires that person the higher the value that person will derive from the relationship. (There is probably a point where this drops off or even reverses, like when it reaches the needy/stalker types)

Two, if one's partner greatly desires that person the risk of infidelity from that partner probably decreases. After all, why would a person ruin a good thing.

Therefore, if black women perceive that men of other races are not really that attracted them, when evaluating potential relationships with men of other races, the women will estimate the value derived from the relationship as lower and higher risk in the long run. This could partially explain while black women seem to demand a higher income in potential partners outside their race.
4.16.2007 3:19pm
Kris Stanya (mail):
I think the original argument relating to available pools is correct; in the Cleveland-area biomedical sciences (graduate student/postdoctoral researcher) the majority of American females are married or engaged. Since the field is overwhelmingly female (here) and at least 50% Chinese, chances are that any single female will be Chinese. So I'm dating a Chinese woman since that is what is available to me.
4.16.2007 3:24pm
Pervy Grin (mail):
Cultural differences alone cannot account for the fact that there is much greater reluctance to engage in interracial dating with blacks than with other groups despite the fact that cultural differences between blacks and whites are, on average, probably smaller than those between native-born whites and recent Hispanic or Asian-American immigrants.

I disagree that the cultural differences and smaller between blacks and whites than between whites and Latinos or Asians, even recent immigrants. I believe it is culture that divides white and black America, not skin color. Whites (especially Catholics) with strong family values fit well with the predominantly-Catholic Latinos, and high-acheiving well-educated whites fit well with similar Asians. Bonus points for strong family values again. Am I suggesting that American blacks as a group are lacking in education, acheivement, and a desire for a traditional, stable family? Sadly, the evidence would suggest that and I don't think it's racist to point that out. I would suspect that amoung well-educated, high-acheiving blacks there is less reluctance to date people of other races whose values and culture are similar.
4.16.2007 3:32pm
JRSTL:
A bit off-topic, but just from reading the VC comments, I think Ilya needs to launch a study to see what percentage of non-Asian VC readers are dating/married to an Asian. Just seems quite high when compared to the general population as I have experienced it. Full disclosure, single but my longest relationship was 3 years with a Pinay, so I fall into the group.
4.16.2007 3:35pm
wyh:
Porkchop:

I don't know how broadly that sentiment was shared, though.

I do observe that some Asian-American women who marry non-Asians, have a tendency to defend their choice by badmouthing Asian-American men. The reverse is not true. I had never heard those few Asian-American men who marry non-Asians badmouthing Asian womens.

It's a well-know condition within Asian-American circle.

http://www.seattleweekly.com/2000-08-23/arts/about-face.php

Many Asian-American literary scholars feel that Tan's best-selling The Joy Luck Club exoticizes the Chinese culture and portrays Chinese men as oppressors and white men as saviors.

For more of that, you can search for Frank Chin's comment's on Amy Tan and Maxine Hong Kingston.
4.16.2007 3:39pm
jvarisco (www):
I'm curious how much of this is correlated to income. Blacks have much lower incomes on the average; do low income non-blacks have the same aversion?

Also, the media certainly plays a role. The statistics seem pretty clear: everyone wants white women. Specifically, everyone wants the anorexic mtv blonde (e.g. Paris Hilton) that is the strereotypical image of sex we are bombarded with every day.
4.16.2007 3:43pm
Octave Mirbeau:
David Nieropent wrote:


Asian men are overwhelmingly portrayed in mass media as either geeky nerds or asexual martial artists or wise men or both (Long Duc Dong in Sixteen Candles and Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid).

Joe, the data may or may not be right, and your explanation may or may not be right, but if you're going to talk about how people are "overwhelmingly portrayed in mass media," shouldn't you pick something other than two two-decade-old examples?


Joe is onto something. in fact, it has been largely studied by many scholars. Just to give you a sample, Robert G. Lee has dedicated a whole chapter in his book Orientals to the phenomenon (chap. 3: The Thrid Sex, in Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture, Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1999, p. 83-106). You may also want to look at Andrew Parker et al. Nationalism and Sexualities, and many other scholars' work on the question (Ronald Takaki, Eric Reyes, Mona Oikawa, Martin Manalansan, Jennifer Ting, Roger DanielsGary Okihiro, among many others) for further readings.

The observation dates from far beyond the last decades. It became a concern mainly in the decades after the Civil War, particularly in western american states. As Robert G. Lee puts it: "Against an emergent and dimorphic order [in the late 19th Century], Oriental sexuality was constructed as ambiguous, inscrutable and hermaphroditic [...]".

The analysis is complex, and I am not going to sum it all up here. But lets state that, prior to the newest ones, the main stereotypical asian male characters in 20th century popular culture all fit the description Joe gave us in his comment. Just to name the two most prominent cases, at least the most studied by recent historiography, Charlie Chan and Fu Manchu aren't anywhere close to John Wayne's manlihood. Of course, there is Marguerite Duras' novel 'The Lover', but it is to be taken for what it is: an exception.
4.16.2007 4:24pm
Randy R. (mail):
Buckland: "The discouragement had a good foundation in fact. Extended families were the social safety net that everybody depended on in bad times. All families would have bad times -- bad economic times, death, disease -- and going to the uncles and cousins for help. If a family is "like us" then everybody knew the help would be there in bad times. However back in the Virginia hollows of the time nobody was sure that an Arsh family would be there when they reach the "sickness" and "poorer" parts of the wedding vows, especially for the rest of the family. A woman would be crazy to get involved without making sure that there's sufficient money available to take care of her, the kids, and any other family member that needs temporary help."

Actually, you have a good point. Long time ago, you didn't marry for love, you married for many other reasons, and family certainly had an interest in whom you married. But as time has gone on, family has less and less interest, as people are more financially and otherwise independent of each other, and so they are free to marry whomever they wish, and families are much less picky as well.

Back then, you married for life because you simply had no other option. Divorce would lead to penury. Choosing a mate was a complicated affair, and the fortunes of both families might depend upon it.

Today, we marry primarily for love, which can be rather fickle, but it's now considered the ideal, whereas before it's often wasn't even in the equation. Once all the other reasons for marrying fell away, however, it opened the door to interracial marriage, and eventually, gay marriage, because if love is the only reason to get married, then you can hardly deny it to two people in love.
4.16.2007 5:20pm
jim:
Randy R., w.r.t. your response to buckland, I completely agree.

It seems that too few people on both sides of the aisle are aware that the demand for gay marriage is a direct result of improved societal wealth and security; the result of impersonal and benevolent conditions, not some evil plot as some conservatives believe, or shear force of liberal activism as liberals like to believe.
4.16.2007 6:14pm
Sheriff Bart:
Where the white women at?
4.16.2007 6:17pm
Tracy W (mail):
the main stereotypical asian male characters in 20th century popular culture all fit the description Joe gave us in his comment.


Ah, but you're only talking early 20th century. Bruce Lee, Jet Li and Jackie Chan, ooo la la. Bruce Lee and Jet Li for the obvious reasons (the cheekbones), and Jackie Chan is sexy because he makes me laugh.

I don't know if those action film heroes count as stereotypical - I find each of them too clearly themselves to view them as a stereotype - but they're definitely Asian and definitely sexy.
4.16.2007 6:27pm
Randy R. (mail):
One thing about finding certain people attractive: It's at least partly culturally conditioned. Centuries ago, fat women were considered the most attractive.

I used to think Asian men were not attractive at all. Then I went to Asia, and I found quite a few attractive. What changed? Really, it was my mindset. I have a friend who is a therapist who says that if you are white, but you grew up in Africa, you would likely find black people attractive.

And need I mention that we often change what we find attractive over the years? The guys I though attractive when I was 20, I look at their pictures and laugh. Ever look at your old high school year book? Those funny hairstyles? yet in your day, they were considered very attractive. What changed is the culture, and YOU.

So your upbringing has a lot to do with it. Education, experience, exposure to others, these all influence the type of person we find attractive.
4.16.2007 6:50pm
crane (mail):

I do observe that some Asian-American women who marry non-Asians, have a tendency to defend their choice by badmouthing Asian-American men. The reverse is not true. I had never heard those few Asian-American men who marry non-Asians badmouthing Asian womens.

It's a well-know condition within Asian-American circle.


I saw a fair bit of this in college, where I tended to hang out with a mostly Asian crowd. The most common form was that Asian men (who wanted to date Asian women) would complain about "all those white guys stealing our women" and then Asian women would yell at them for acting like Asian women were their property and talk about how the white men treated them so much better. There were also accusations thrown in about how Asian men were sexist bastards who expected their wives to be nice and obedient and do all the housework. I never got this from the Asian man I dated, but he was pretty far removed from his parents' ancestral cultures as the most recent immigrants had come over three generations ago.
4.16.2007 6:57pm
ytm (mail):
Might it be that that these statistics can be explained by an aversion to having interracial children, because of the difficulty such children face, rather than an aversion to romantic partners of other races? I am attracted to men of other races, but have never let myself pursue those attractions because I think the life of a mixed-race person has certain unfortunate difficulties.
4.16.2007 7:45pm
Randy R. (mail):
Like Tiger Woods?
4.16.2007 7:51pm
Buckland (mail):
wooga:

So I guess marrying your sister is perfectly natural :/

Sister gets a little close and there are prohibitions against that, but marrying cousins used to be considered an OK thing to do, especially on the farms and small communities of the South.

I'm pretty sure that every study shows that you are 100% wrong. Nature hard wires people to seek out genetic diversity, in order to avoid inbreeding. The "similarity" would be an entirely social construct.

I'd be interested in the "every study" you know of. I would expect a very different look to tribal areas of Africa and South America if what you say is true. If it were more common to seek mates outside of ones tribal group then I would expect a very homogenous population in these areas. However small tribal groups that are closely related to others in the areas still predominate. India has roughly 800 languages and 2,000 dialects. I would have expected only a few language groups if there was an urge to go outside ones group for mating purposes. A homogenous population would be the expected result of an urge to diversify. Small, diverse society groups would be expected if the urge is to mate with people like us, and that's what we see.

In animals that's one way speciation occurs. A small group gets a characteristic that others in the group sees as attractive and the characteristic is honed by close mating until they drift genetically far enough from the base population that mating is an impossibility.
4.16.2007 8:14pm
wooga:
This is the one study that popped in my mind. It's the 1995 Wedekind smelly t-shirt study, that indicates that fertile women prefer men with foreign traits, whereas pregnant women prefer similarity.

This makes sense to me. What genetic benefit would humans derive from marrying solely within their own group? In contrast, mixing would serve tremendous potential genetic benefits, introducing new traits which might be superior and thus come to dominate a gene pool. So I would expect humans to have some hard wiring towards inter-racial marriage.

The historical record does not change this. Men don't want foreign men taking away their women, and powerful men want all the women for themselves, so they impose all sorts of rules to satisfy their personal sexual needs. Thus we have things like the Indian caste system and Islamic polygamy. Look, if I was supreme ruler of the earth, I too would rig the system to get all the hot chicks for myself.

But it is silly to point to isolated communities in remote regions, or to rigid societies, as somehow a rebuttal of the natural inclination towards mixing. Social laws very frequently directly contradict natural behavior!
4.16.2007 11:11pm
Randy R. (mail):
Wooga: "Social laws very frequently directly contradict natural behavior!"

True. Social laws, until recently, prohibited gay sex in many states. That directly contradicted natural behavior, as many men engage in gay sex. (Although they don't call it that)
4.16.2007 11:52pm
wooga:
Yes Randy. Laws also prohibit public nudity, even though being naked is quite natural. They also prohibit me from mounting the nearest female at will, even though that would also be quite natural.

The point is, interracial mixing serves an obvious genetic purpose, but is nevertheless discouraged by social constructs. Assuming arguendo that gay sex also serves some genetic purpose, you certainly might have a useful analogy in a gay rights thread. But it is irrelevant to the issue at hand, which involves intermixing as opposed to homogeneous attraction. Must we always insert our own pet issues into every thread?
4.17.2007 1:30pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Wooga,
Randy was just agreeing with you. As do I. Laws are often written to forbid things people are naturally inclided to do. They are rarely written to prohibit things no one is inclined to do. Examples include suppressing women's choice in mates and forbidding gay sex. What's the big deal about adding an example to support your point?
4.17.2007 5:44pm
Randy R. (mail):
Thanks, Lucia. I guess some people are so touchy about their opinions that they don't like it even when people actually AGREE with them!

"Must we always insert our own pet issues into every thread?"

Sure, why not? It's called "learning from each other." Sorta good thing, don't you think?

For a long time, gays were considered invisible, and men who engaged in engaged in same sex often denied that they did so. It was something you 'just didn't talk about.' So I'm just making up for lost time!
4.17.2007 7:49pm