Studies have shown that Americans prefer to date someone from their own race and that, when looking for a mate, this preference is stronger than almost any other. A new study, however, suggests that people may be limiting their choices to those in their own race not because they aren’t attracted to or couldn’t be interested in someone who doesn’t look like them, but because they fear they’re not attractive to other races.
Sociologist Kevin Lewis at the University of California, San Diego, examined “the interactions of 126,134 newly signed-up members of the online-dating website OKCupid over two and a half months.” He found that, while “most people very rarely strayed beyond their own ethnicity in reaching out to potential dates,” they were much more likely to respond to and even initiate contact with someone from another race once they themselves had been contacted by somebody of a different race. In fact, “these people logged 115% more interracial exchanges in the two-and-a-half-month study period than OKCupid members of a similar background and region who had not been contacted by a person from another race. One interesting thing the researchers note is that getting a message from, say, a black guy didn’t mean that that person would suddenly approach people from all other races; it just meant she or he would pay more attention to other black guys. It’s also interesting to note that as a group Asian women date outside their race more than any other group and, in fact, date white men more than they date their Asian counterparts.
Researcher Lewis explains that most online daters who don’t think to reach out to other races are practicing “pre-emptive discrimination.” They’ve been rejected or discriminated against in the past by other races, so they stick with people who look like them. This would explain why white people, who traditionally experience the least amount of racism or rejection based on their race, are the ones who approach other races the most in online dating. Lewis says “his data suggests that if someone — more likely a man, according to the data — makes the first move, and overcomes his fear of rejection, online daters realize the pool of potential partners may be wider and richer than they had previously imagined, and they tend to initiate more interracial contacts and to respond to ones that come their way more often.”
So, daters, there you go. Think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to approach people of other races. Sure, you may get rejected, but you may get rejected by people of your own race as well. Might as well fish in a bigger pool, right? You just may catch yourself a good one.