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Tipping the Multiracial Color-Line: Racialized Preferences of Multiracial Online Daters

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Abstract

Building on previous work on US multiraciality, we analyze the messaging patterns of Asian-white, Hispanic-white, and black-white multiracial heterosexual users on one of the largest mainstream dating websites in the USA. We consider how multiracials’ online dating behaviors reflect, accommodate or challenge racialized desirability hierarchies among heterosexual daters. The study’s results illustrate that Hispanic-white multiracial men show similar preferences to both their multiracial and monoracial in-groups, while Asian-white and black-white multiracial men most prefer their multiracial counterparts. Hispanic-white multiracial women, on the other hand, privilege whiteness and multiraciality, while Asian-white multiracial women show most preference for their multiracial in-groups. Overall, our findings illustrate that both multiracial men and women’s online dating behaviors illustrate a linked privileging of white multiraciality while they also reinforce a hierarchical ranking of racial desirability anchored by anti-Blackness.

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Notes

  1. Although we do not analyze people of three or more races in this paper due to small sample size, we use the terms biracial and multiracial interchangeably given that multiracial is defined as more than one race while biracial is defined as two races.

  2. Since the website categorizes Asian separately from those from India or the Pacific islands, for example, our Asian category does not apply to users who self-identified as Indians or Pacific Islanders (which tends to be combined with Asian in the Census classification). We do not collapse South Asians with other Asian groups because South Asians often have very different experiences from East Asians (Mishra 2013).

  3. Even though our original data set consists of a large number of users, non-White biracial users are sparse and therefore do not have much opportunity to interact with other daters of the same racial background. For example, compared to more than 10,000 Asian-White users, there are only 2723 Asian-Black users, and 3964 Asian-Hispanic straight male and female users. As such, we focus only on White biracial daters.

  4. Alphabetically, the largest top-20 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) are the following: 12,060 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA; 12,420 Austin- Round Rock, TX; 12,580 Baltimore-Towson, MD; 14,460 Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH; 16,980 Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI; 19,100 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX; 19,820 Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI; 26,420 Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX; 31,100 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA; 33,100 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL; 33,460 Minneapolis- St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI; 35,620 New York- Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA; 37,980 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ- DE-MD; 38,060 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ; 38,900 Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, OR-WA; 41,740 San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA; 41,860 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA; 42,660 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA; 45,300 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL; and 47,900 Washington- Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV.

  5. Counting all the initial messages between heterosexual daters in our dataset, less than 25% were sent by women. Overall, straight men send twice as many messages as straight women, and this generally is the case across the various ethnic and racial groups presented. For this reason our analyses focus on the likelihood of a response when assessing women’s messaging behaviors, while for men we focus on their sending behaviors rather than their response behaviors.

  6. Attractiveness data does not include information pertaining to the race of the rater, and, given the majority of users are White, leans toward a predominately White gaze.

  7. GEE logit estimates the same model as standard logistic regression; however, it differs in that it allows for dependence within clusters, optimizing the statistical power of the correlated data by estimating clustered correlations. The advantage to the GEE approach over, for example hierarchical or mixed effects models, is that it makes little demand of within-cluster variance and is more suitable to our data, where a significant number of our observations are singletons and where user participation follows a power-law distribution. The exclusion of singletons would create serious selection bias, making a random intercept approach unsuitable for our analysis. In contrast to other, more network-oriented approaches, GEE requires less computing power and thus handles a much larger population. The drawback is that we must assume a correlation within each sender/responder but not within the other side. However, considering that each individual will have different evaluations of the unmeasured factors of the same individual and there is little network transitivity in the relation of interest (two alters of the same ego do not attract each other in our case), the GEE procedure is the best-suited approach.

  8. Although large confidence intervals due to small N in unshown models for Asian-White, Black-White and Hispanic-White multiracial women’s sending leave the precise sorting mechanism unclear, Asian-White, Black-White and Hispanic-White multiracial women’s sending models appear to indicate they are most likely to send to their same-group multiracial co-ethnics and White men and least likely to send to monoracial Black men. Multiracial men’s unshown response patterns also indicate that they are least responsive to Blacks and most responsive to their Multiracial co-ethnics. The notable difference, however, is that Hispanic-White men have an almost equal probability of responding to Hispanic-White and White woman. Overall, the unshown models align with the analyses of multiracial men’s sending and multiracial women’s response patterns we have presented throughout the paper. That is, anti-Blackness and a persistent privileging of multiraciality characterizes multiracials’ dating behaviors.

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Curington, C.V., Lundquist, J.H. & Lin, KH. Tipping the Multiracial Color-Line: Racialized Preferences of Multiracial Online Daters. Race Soc Probl 12, 195–208 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-020-09295-z

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