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14 February 2011
Online dating: to boldly go where no black man has gone before
by George Atkinson

An analysis of Internet dating profiles by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, showed that whites overwhelmingly prefer to date members of their own race, while blacks, especially men, are far more likely to cross the race barrier in search of Cupid's arrow.

Over 2 years, the researchers analyzed the racial preferences and online activity of people from the United States who subscribed to a major dating website. In their profiles, the online daters stated a racial preference. Some said they preferred to date only within their race, others preferred someone outside their race, and yet others said they were open to dating someone of any race.

"Those who said they were indifferent to the race of a partner were most likely to be young, male and black," said Gerald Mendelsohn, a UC Berkeley psychologist and author of the study. "Whites more than blacks, women more than men, and old more than young participants stated a preference for a partner of the same race."

The reluctance of whites to contact blacks was true even for those who claimed they were indifferent to race. More than 80 percent of the whites contacted whites and fewer than 5 percent of them contacted blacks, a disparity that held for young as well as for older participants.

The study notes that the last 40 years have seen a dramatic shift in attitudes in America toward black-white intermarriage - from three to one opposed to three to one in favor. Yet recent U.S. Census data shows that black-white couples represent just 1 percent of American marriages.

According to the study, more than 80 percent of the online dating contacts initiated by whites were to other whites, with only 3 percent going to blacks. Although black participants initiated contact to members of their own race more than to whites, they were ten times more likely to contact whites than vice versa.

"One theory is that blacks are acting like other minority populations in the history of this country," Mendelsohn said. "They are interested in moving up in the power structure, and one way you do that is through intermarriage with the dominant group."

The researchers also tracked the rates of reciprocation among the pool of online daters, looking at how they responded once they received a message from an interested potential partner. Again, white men and women were most likely to respond to members of their own race, and only 5 percent of their responses went to blacks. "It is clear that we are not yet in the post-racial era, and evidence from studies of online dating suggest that waiting for its arrival will take some patience," the study concluded.

Related:
Ouch! Social rejection really can hurt
The Raunchy Origins Of Valentine's Day
Attractiveness: The Evolutionary Aftermath

Source: University of California, Berkeley




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