OKCupid Data Reveals the Disturbing Truth About How People Pick Their Partners

Source: AP
Source: AP

The news: OkCupid has received flak for manipulating users' matches to conduct social experiments in recent months. But as the resulting data shows, the dating website's 25 million-strong user base provides a hotbed of insightful — and uncomfortable — truths.

OkCupid founder Christian Rudder recently posted some of these snapshots on the website's blog, reviewing how race affects OkCupid users' behavior. In short: As much as people would like to believe that they are open-minded, a potential partner's racial background plays a huge part in OkCupid's matches.

"OkCupid users are certainly no more open-minded than they used to be. If anything, racial bias has intensified a bit," Rudder wrote, adding that black people and Asian men were at a significant disadvantage in the dating pool.

Source: OkCupid

As shown in the graph above, black women, black men and Asian men only received net-positive ratings from people from their own background. Another disconcerting fact: The numbers look no better than the ones from the same study five years ago, despite the fact that the user base has grown and changed since then.

Source: OkCupid

This is further complicated by the fact that when prompted by the website, more and more people said they were open to interracial dating:

Source: OkCupid

Unfortunately, this bias is not unique to OkCupid. As previous similar studies have found, racial preference is a common thing across dating websites. And as Rudder points out, while having a preferred type is not racist in and of itself, there is cause for pause and reflection when certain racial groups face systemic disadvantage.

"On an individual level, a person can't really control who turns them on — and almost everyone has a 'type,' one way or another," Rudder wrote. "But I do think the trend — that fact that race is a sexual factor for so many individuals, and in such a consistent way — says something about race's role in our society."

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Eileen Shim

Eileen is a writer living in New York. She studied comparative literature and international studies at Yale University, and enjoys writing about the intersection of culture and politics.

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