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


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.


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.


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


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."