Race & Online Dating

Are you a single Black man, Black woman or Asian man? Chances are you might struggle to find success with online dating.

By Chris Hoenig

Race and online dating.Black men and women have a far harder time with online dating than almost every other race or ethnicity, with the exception of Asian men.

Research gathered by online dating site OkCupid points the finger at a racial bias that has only intensified over the past five years, where Black men and women and Asian men are found to be less attractive by those who sign up for online dating sites than the “average person.”

Using a collection of responses to OkCupid’s QuickMatch system, which allows users to quickly view a profile and give it a rating from 1 to 5, the researchers found that Black men had little racial preference at all—they actually rated Black and white women the same, both below their ratings for Asian and Latina women—while non-Black men all gave very low ratings to Black women.

Women, meanwhile, all preferred men of their own race, but rated Black men and Asian men significantly lower (with the exception of Black women rating Black men and Asian women rating Asian men).

Race and online dating

“The more you look at the data, the more it does confirm the cynics’ intuition about humanity,” OkCupid co-founder Christian Rudder told Salon. “People online are free to act out their worst impulses with very little incentive to act out their best. I guess it just goes to show how politeness or propriety keeps us decent human beings. Offline, society actually has a very good effect on behavior in a very large sense.”

Research into the overall use of online dating websites varies. According to a Pew Research Internet Project study last year, just under 40 percent of single Americans have tried online dating sites or mobile matchmaking apps (equaling about 11 percent of all Americans). Reuters research puts that number much higher: More than 41 million of the 54 million-plus single Americans (or 76 percent) have tried online dating.

“Beauty is a cultural idea as much as a physical one, and the standard is of course set by the dominant culture,” Rudder writes on OkCupid’s blog. “I believe that’s what you see in the data here.”

But does all this research mean that society in general—or at least the large online dating community—is racist?

“I’m not qualified to give a real opinion on where society as a whole is headed, but I think when you look at stuff like rage storms on Twitter, or even … the celebrity nude photos being leaked, you see that there are definitely some disgusting impulses that the Internet can gratify instantaneously,” Rudder said. “In the same way Cool Ranch Doritos gratify certain taste receptors that are probably not very good for my digestive tract, things like Twitter or Reddit or even OkCupid gratify our tastes in ways that should probably best be left unsated.

“I definitely have a certain amount of ambivalence about the Internet generally and what we do at OkCupid. OkCupid does a lot of great things. We do find people love, we do create marriage and children and happiness in a pure sense, in a way that, say, Amazon does not. But there is a downside: In the process of finding that love or sex or whatever they’re looking for, people are able to be more judgmental. It’s a fraught thing. I can see the good and the bad in all this, but where it all comes out in the end, I’m not sure. I think the existence of the Internet is a good thing, but I do wish people exercised more humanity in using these tools.”

Rudder’s extensive research based on usage of his site also found a glaring difference between men and women when it comes to age preference. Up until roughly age 40, men prefer their own age (women over 40 prefer men right around 40 years old).

Race and online dating.

As for the men … well, the old adage that men are pigs might just apply. Men of pretty much every age are most attracted to 20– to 22-year-olds.

Race and online dating.

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  • I dont find any of this surprising because I live in america. It’s always shocking yo those unaffected and oblivious. So much for post racial america. Old ideas still reign supreme as we can see with lack of celebration of diverse beauty in media, movies, fashion, advertising.

    • I agree, media, movie and advertisement is so one sided. I still see movies using the white male as Native Americans. When we can fix this things will change.

  • What is included in the OKCupid Quick Match profile? Is it just a photograph, or is other information included, such as education, occupation, etc.? If it’s only a photograph, cultural standards of “beauty” probably are the predominant factor. However, there is discrimination based on social class, too — albeit, heavily intertwined with racism, such that racial minorities may experience a “double-whammy” — and it could factor in if education, occupation, income, etc., are included in the profiles.

    • DiversityReader

      Education, occupation, income, music/movie interests, hobbies, values, religion are included in addition to race and a photo. Each measure is weighted by the user, and many times race is a non-negotiable item.

  • “…while non-Black men all gave very low ratings to Black women.” I missed being in the survey, or in OKCupid for that matter, but I assure you there are many white guys attracted to black women.

    • I agree I am black and so many white and other race males approach me but I do find it hard to meet the ones that are interested in more than just sex but I find that in dating in general.

  • Black men and women, and Asian men most effected?

    Sad but true, and not much anyone can do about it. Beauty is literally in the eye of the beholder, in my extended family. On my Asian wife’s side, almost every woman younger than I has had her eyes surgically widened (blepharoplastied?). None of my white female relatives have ever even mentioned paying a surgeon to narrow their eyes, doubt any ever will.

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