New OKCupid Data on Race Is Pretty Depressing

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In 2009, OKCupid published their first post exploring how race factored  into attraction on the site — and the results did not quite suggest a colorblind utopia of post-racial love. Most races preferred to date within their own race. Asian men and black men received fewer messages than white men, while black women received the fewest messages of all users. Today, OKCupid data scientists released another post, revisiting the data to see if anything had changed over the course of five years. Surely daters had become more open-minded over time!

Sorry, folks: A look at 2014 data suggests that there has been little improvement. And in fact, writes OKCupid co-founder Christian Rudder, racial bias seems to have gotten a bit more marked over time. You can check out all the numbers here.

Overall, the results seem to reveal less about OKCupid and its users (in fact, Rudder points out this pattern is common on other dating sites as well)  than about society’s prevailing beauty standards and the ways they skew toward whiteness.

Rudder writes: “Beauty is a cultural idea as much as a physical one, and the standard is of course set by the dominant culture. I believe that’s what you see in the data here …. One interesting thing about OKCupid’s interface is that we allow people to select more than one race, so you can actually look at people who’ve combined ‘white’ with another racial description. Adding ‘whiteness’ always helps your rating! In fact it goes a long way toward undoing any bias against you.”

This data raises SOME interesting questions — for one thing, are these  patterns mirroring the real world? Or does online dating give people a certain freedom to be more discriminatory? I don’t know about you, but this might depress me enough to drive me back to the wilds of IRL dating.

New OKCupid Data on Race Is Pretty Depressing