Journal of Experimental Criminology

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 179–199 | Cite as

Full disclosure: experimental analysis of female online dating on parole

  • Douglas N. EvansEmail author



Research has considered the effect of convictions on employment and housing outcomes, but there are limited studies exploring how criminal justice contact affects the initiation of relationships. This study uses an experimental design to explore how people react to criminal stigma in the context of online dating.


Female online dating profiles were created using pre-rated, open access photographs of women that varied in race (Black, White, Latino). These three profiles comprised the control condition. The experimental condition consisted of the same exact three profiles with one exception: a brief mention of their being on parole in written profile bios. The three profiles attempted to match with 6000 online daters each in the control and experimental conditions across 18 online dating platforms (N = 36,000).


Findings indicate that the Black and Latina profiles matched significantly less frequently when disclosing parole. In the parole disclosure condition, White female profiles received significantly more matches than Black and Latino profiles, and White females disclosing parole matched at a higher rate than White females not disclosing parole.


The stigma of a criminal record is damaging for Blacks and Latinas who disclose parole in online dating bios, but for White females, disclosure of parole does not hinder and may even help their online dating match success. The stigma of being minority appears to compound criminal stigma in online dating. This has crucial implications for the relationships of formerly incarcerated because prosocial romantic relationships reduce recidivism.


Criminal stigma Experimental design Online dating Parole disclosure Women Relationships 



I would like to thank the research team members—Lifa Choo, Hydeia Deshields, Nicole Diminno, Ijanea Fedrik, Kristineiry Hernandez, Kimberly Jones, Michael Kerrigan, Anthony LaRosa, Richard Luna, Yashira Marquez, Mabel Mendez, Milton Ortiz, Richard Pena, Cheradyn Petit, Katiria Reyes, Amarfis Rodriguez, Tamara Solomon, and Samuel Acheampong for their contributions to this project. This study would not have been possible without their diligent efforts. I dedicate this study in loving memory to Dr. Devah Pager, whose work inspired the study design and whose kindness and helpful feedback to a stranger attested to grace and generosity. You will be missed but your legacy will live on through your work and all the lives you touched.


  1. Alexander, M. (2012). The new Jim Crow: mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
  2. Amodio, D., & Mendoza, S. A. (2010). Implicit intergroup bias: cognitive, affective, and motivational underpinnings. In B. Gawronski & B. K. Payne (Eds.), Handbook of implicit social cognition (pp. 353–374). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, K., Varghese, F. P., Trower, E., Sandlin, L., & Norwood, N. (2013). Perceptions of African American college applicants: the roles of race, criminal history, and qualifications. Race and Social Problems, 5(3), 157–172.Google Scholar
  4. Bargh, J. A., McKenna, K. Y., & Fitzsimons, G. M. (2002). Can you see the real me? Activation and expression of the “true self” on the internet. Journal of Social Issues, 58(1), 33–48.Google Scholar
  5. Becker, H. (1963). Outsiders. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  6. Best, K., & Delmege, S. (2012). The filtered encounter: online dating and the problem of filtering through excessive information. Social Semiotics, 22(3), 237–258.Google Scholar
  7. Braithwaite, J. (1989). Crime, shame and reintegration. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Corrigan, P. W., & Watson, A. C. (2002). Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness. World Psychiatry, 1(1), 16–20.Google Scholar
  9. Couch, D., & Liamputtong, P. (2008). Online dating and mating: the use of the internet to meet sexual partners. Qualitative Health Research, 18(2), 268–279.Google Scholar
  10. Covington, J. (2003). The violent Black male: conceptions of race in criminological theories. In D. F. Hawkins (Ed.), Violent crime: assessing race and ethnic differences (pp. 254–279). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Cullen, F. T., & Cullen, J. B. (1978). Toward a paradigm of labeling theory. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska.Google Scholar
  12. Ellison, N., Heino, R., & Gibbs, J. (2006). Managing impressions online: self-presentation processes in the online dating environment. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(2), 415–441.Google Scholar
  13. Evans, D. N. (2013). Registration nation: the impact of sex offender laws. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.Google Scholar
  14. Evans, D. N. (2016). The effect of criminal convictions on real estate agent decisions in New York City. Journal of Crime and Justice, 39(3), 363–379.Google Scholar
  15. Evans, D. N., & Porter, J. R. (2015). Criminal history and landlord rental decisions: a New York quasi-experimental study. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 11(1), 21–42.Google Scholar
  16. Evans, D. N., Blount-Hill, K. L., & Cubellis, M. A. (2018). Examining housing discrimination across race, gender and felony history. Housing Studies (in press).Google Scholar
  17. Federal Bureau of Prisons. (2018). Inmate gender. Washington, DC: Author Retrieved December 20, 2018 from Scholar
  18. Finkel, E. J., Eastwick, P. W., Karney, B. R., Reis, H. T., & Sprecher, S. (2012). Online dating: a critical analysis from the perspective of psychological science. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 13(1), 3–66.Google Scholar
  19. Fiore, A. T., Taylor, L. S., Mendelsohn, G. A., & Hearst, M. (2008). Assessing attractiveness in online dating profiles. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems: 797–806.Google Scholar
  20. Gawronski, B., & Bodenhausen, G. V. (2006). Associative and propositional processes in evaluation: an integrative review of implicit and explicit attitude change. Psychological Bulletin, 132(5), 692–731.Google Scholar
  21. Giordano, P. C., Cernkovich, S. A., & Rudolph, J. L. (2002). Gender, crime, and desistance: toward a theory of cognitive transformation. American Journal of Sociology, 107(4), 990–1064.Google Scholar
  22. Glaze, L. E., & Kaeble, D. (2014). Correctional populations in the United States, 2013. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics Retrieved December 20, 2018 from Scholar
  23. Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  24. Gosling, S. D., Gaddis, S., & Vazire, S. (2007) Personality impressions based on Facebook profiles. International Conference on Web and Social Media, 7:1–4.Google Scholar
  25. Hall, J. A., Park, N., Song, H., & Cody, M. J. (2010). Strategic misrepresentation in online dating: the effects of gender, self-monitoring, and personality traits. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 27(1), 117–135.Google Scholar
  26. Harris, T. M., & Kalbfleisch, P. J. (2000). Interracial dating: the implications of race for initiating a romantic relationship. Howard Journal of Communications, 11(1), 49–64.Google Scholar
  27. Heino, R. D., Ellison, N. B., & Gibbs, J. L. (2010). Relationshopping: investigating the market metaphor in online dating. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 27(4), 427–447.Google Scholar
  28. Hitsch, G. J., Hortaçsu, A., & Ariely, D. (2010). What makes you click?—mate preferences in online dating. Quantitative Marketing and Economics, 8(4), 393–427.Google Scholar
  29. Huebner, B. M. (2007). Racial and ethnic differences in the likelihood of marriage: the effect of incarceration. Justice Quarterly, 24(1), 156–183.Google Scholar
  30. Hutchinson, D. L. (2014). Continually reminded of their inferior position: social dominance, implicit bias, criminality, and race. Washington University Journal of Law & Policy, 46, 23–114.Google Scholar
  31. Imhoff, R. (2015). Punitive attitudes against pedophiles or persons with sexual interest in children: does the label matter? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44(1), 35–44.Google Scholar
  32. LeBel, T. P. (2012). Invisible stripes? Formerly incarcerated persons’ perceptions of stigma. Deviant Behavior, 33(2), 89–107.Google Scholar
  33. LeFebvre, L. E. (2017). Ghosting as a relationship dissolution strategy in the technological age. In N. M. Punyanunt-Carter & J. S. Wrench (Eds.), The impact of social media in modern romantic relationships (pp. 219–235). New York: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  34. Leverentz, A. M. (2006). The love of a good man? Romantic relationships as a source of support or hindrance for female ex-offenders. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 43(4), 459–488.Google Scholar
  35. Link, B. G., & Phelan, J. C. (2001). Conceptualizing stigma. Annual Review of Sociology, 27(1), 363–385.Google Scholar
  36. Luxen, M. F., & Van De Vijver, F. J. (2006). Facial attractiveness, sexual selection, and personnel selection: when evolved preferences matter. Journal of Organizational Behavior: The International Journal of Industrial, Occupational and Organizational Psychology and Behavior, 27(2), 241–255.Google Scholar
  37. Massoglia, M., Remster, B., & King, R. D. (2011). Stigma or separation? Understanding the incarceration-divorce relationship. Social Forces, 90(1), 133–155.Google Scholar
  38. Merkle, E. R., & Richardson, R. A. (2000). Digital dating and virtual relating: conceptualizing computer mediated romantic relationships. Family Relations, 49(2), 187–192.Google Scholar
  39. Montgomery, B. (1994). Communication in close relationships. In A. L. Weber & J. H. Harvey (Eds.), Perspectives on close relationships (pp. 67–86). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  40. Morani, N. M., Wikoff, N., Linhorst, D. M., & Bratton, S. (2011). A description of the self-identified needs, service expenditures, and social outcomes of participants of a prisoner-reentry program. The Prison Journal, 91(3), 347–365.Google Scholar
  41. Norton, M. I., Frost, J. H., & Ariely, D. (2007). Less is more: the lure of ambiguity, or why familiarity breeds contempt. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(1), 97–105.Google Scholar
  42. Pager, D. (2007). Marked: race, crime, and finding work in an era of mass incarceration. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  43. Pager, D., & Quillian, L. (2005). Walking the talk? What employers say versus what they do. American Sociological Review, 70(3), 355–380.Google Scholar
  44. Pager, D., Western, B., & Sugie, N. (2009). Sequencing disadvantage: barriers to employment facing young Black and White men with criminal records. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 623(1), 195–213.Google Scholar
  45. Russell, B. L. (Ed.) (2012). Perceptions of female offenders: how stereotypes and social norms affect criminal justice responses. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  46. Sampson, R. J., & Laub, J. H. (1995). Crime in the making: pathways and turning points through life. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Scheingold, S. A., Olson, T., & Pershing, J. (1994). Sexual violence, victim advocacy, and republican criminology: Washington State’s Community Protection Act. Law and Society Review, 28(4), 729–763.Google Scholar
  48. Smith, A. (2016). 15% of American adults have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps. New York: Pew Research Center Retrieved September, 15, 2017 from Scholar
  49. Smith, A., & Anderson, M. (2015). 5 facts about online dating. New York: Pew Research Center Retrieved September 15, 2017 from Scholar
  50. Steffensmeier, D. J. (1986). The fence: in the shadow of two worlds. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  51. Steffensmeier, D., & Allan, E. (1996). Gender and crime: toward a gendered theory of female offending. Annual Review of Sociology, 22(1), 459–487.Google Scholar
  52. Tewksbury, R., & Lees, M. (2006). Perceptions of sex offender registration: collateral consequences and community experiences. Sociological Spectrum, 26(3), 309–334.Google Scholar
  53. Uggen, C., Vuolo, M., Lageson, S., Ruhland, E., & Whitham, H. K. (2014). The edge of stigma: an experimental audit of the effects of low-level criminal records on employment. Criminology, 52(4), 627–654.Google Scholar
  54. Valkenburg, P. M., & Peter, J. (2007). Who visits online dating sites? Exploring some characteristics of online daters. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 10(6), 849–852.Google Scholar
  55. Wilson, S. B., McIntosh, W. D., & Insana, S. P. (2007). Dating across race: an examination of African American internet personal advertisements. Journal of Black Studies, 37(6), 964–982.Google Scholar
  56. Winnick, T. A., & Bodkin, M. (2008). Anticipated stigma and stigma management among those to be labeled “ex-con”. Deviant Behavior, 29(4), 295–333.Google Scholar
  57. Yancey, G. (2007). Homogamy over the net: using internet advertisements to discover who interracially dates. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24(6), 913–930.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminal Justice, Political Science, and International StudiesFairleigh Dickinson UniversityTeaneckUSA
  2. 2.Research and Evaluation CenterJohn Jay College of Criminal JusticeNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations