Questioning attitudes to dating across the colour line
A new study examines for the first time how both biracial and monoracial daters really feel about dating someone with a different background to theirs. The research, published in Ethnic and Racial Studies, suggests that, in the US at least, a person’s race still plays a big role in who might ask them out for dinner.
Allison R. McGrath of Vanderbilt University, and her colleagues, studied the profiles and racial preferences of 1,200 men and women on the US version of the dating site Match.com. The rationale for their study is that “although the increasing numbers of biracial people seemingly suggest that the United States is becoming a more racially and ethnically diverse nation, by investigating the dating preferences of biracial individuals, we are able to assess whether racial/ethnic boundaries are truly blurring”.
The authors found that roughly 87% of all monoracial daters would date someone outside their own race/ethnicity. An overwhelming majority of these monoracial daters stated a preference for dating whites (91%), followed by Hispanics (81%), ‘other’ (71%), Asians (67%) and blacks (62%).
The figures were similar for biracial daters, with over 87% indicating that they were willing to date someone outside their own racial/ethnic group. Again the overwhelming majority indicated that they were seeking partners who were white (92%), followed closely by respondents who reported they were willing to date Hispanics (81%) and ‘others’ (71%).
However, when broken down, the results revealed that certain racial/ethnic combinations were less inclined than others to date someone who was partly outside of their own race and ethnicity. White biracial individuals (Asian-white, Hispanic-white, and other-white, for example), were less likely to indicate a preference to date outside of their racial/ethnic category compared to the biracial daters as a whole.
To explain this, the authors suggest that “although our findings indicate that biracial individuals are more likely to seek potential partners outside of their same racial/ethnic identity, their dating preferences also reflect a distinct racial hierarchy that may account for why some racial/ethnic categories are more desirable than others”.
As McGrath and her colleagues explain: “Daters essentially ‘trade’ in personal, social, and cultural capital to find a romantic partner with characteristics that they believe will fulfil their own needs and desires. In the case of race, individuals who possess the highest level of perceived status may choose to date across colour lines if they also perceive some form of surplus (e.g. money or education) that would make the ‘romantic exchange’ equitable”.
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