We’re in the midst of a cultural sea change to one of the most central institutions in the life of the nation.
American attitudes on interracial relationships have taken an enormous step forward in the last two decades.
“The test feels like being on Tinder.” When Buzz Feed writer Anne Helen Petersen built her own tiny version of Tinder for a study she conducted on bias in online dating last year, her conclusion was a good bit more interesting than “people are racist.” Petersen, who got her doctorate in media studies from the University of Texas at Austin, took about 60 stock photos of individuals (30 men and 30 women), ran them through Instagram-like filters for authenticity, and nestled them in the middle of Tinder frames.
She then circulated the experiment on social media, letting participants swipe left or right based on attractiveness, just like real Tinder.
The matching rates of each group to all the others spanned only a small range of 56 to 62 percent comparability.
In some cases, certain groups had higher compatibility scores outside of their races—for example, Hispanic/Latin men paired up one point better with black and Middle Eastern women than they did with women of their own ethnicity—but the margins weren’t statistically significant.
One method psychologists use to isolate these judgments is through a process called the Implicit Association Test.
As it turns out, race is a huge factor when it comes to making romantic connections online, one that puts certain groups at persistent, structural disadvantages.
“Individuals often have inaccurate beliefs about their own preferences,” they explain.
When someone sees another person’s face, their brain, subconsciously and automatically, runs through a litany of images and associations, each coming with their own individual value judgment, that help that person make sense of the world.
According to Christian Rudder, the Harvard-educated data whiz who founded Ok Cupid, that’s not actually how it works. In a 2009 post on the dating site’s Ok Trends dating research blog, Rudder noted that there’s very little variation in how people of different races match up with each other based on the site’s algorithm, which analyzes their interests and spits out a score showing their compatibility.
There is a tight correlation between how well two people match each other and how likely they are to message each other back and forth—the best sign the site’s operators have that a relationship is blossoming.
And yet, while the actual number of interracial relationships in the United States is certainly climbing, the overwhelming majority of Americans are in relationships with another person of their same race.