Posted on March 23, 2011

What If There Weren’t So Many White People?

Christian Rudder, OkTrends, March 15, 2011

{snip} Since most thinking about race hinges on the fact that one particular race predominates, what if, using statistical models, you could make that predominance disappear?

Right now, even on a per capita basis, whites gets more messages than non-whites on OkCupid:

But how much of this reflects whites’ “popularity” and how much reflects their population? What would this graph look like in a racially-balanced world? How would people’s choices change, if the people to choose from weren’t mostly of one race?

This post is based on 82 million messages sent on OkCupid over the last few months. Here’s what we found.

Our data set

OkCupid is actually less white than the rest of the U.S. Internet, though it’s hard to make direct group-to-group comparisons because Quantcast (our national demographic source) doesn’t have multiracial data.

For this post, to keep the discussion streamlined and accurate, I’ll only include OkCupid’s largest single-race groups: whites, asians, blacks, and latinos.

Where To Start

When you look at the messages sent by each of our four biggest racial groups, it’s actually kind of amazing how much white people are flooding the market. In raw terms, everybody, whites and non-whites alike, sends white people most of their messages. {snip}

The kind of messaging imbalance that currently exists has observable effects on how people think about race and dating. Search for “interracial couple” on a stock photo site: you’ll find a rainbow of Asians, Latinos, Black, and Indians, all hanging out with their white significant others. {snip}

But as we’ve seen, in a scenario where people have an equal choice of messaging options, things are very different.

In other words, person for person:

Asians are the most desired racial group in the country.

Then Latinos. Then whites, sort of. As we’re seeing it now, the data is being distorted: a huge part of the country is white, and white people mostly like to talk amongst themselves. Intentionally or not, minorities are left out in the cold.

Nonetheless, people prefer their own race

Given equal choice, every race strongly prefers itself:

And white people actually prefer themselves the least, but right now there’s just so many of them. It’s interesting to think what things would be like if the shoe was on the other foot; if another race outnumbered whites 19:1. {snip}

For white people, there are also some places where a relatively smaller population still sends a disproportionately high number of messages to themselves–aka the most racist towns in America. The white people in Greenville, MS, for instance, comprise only 59% of our user base there. However, 95% of their messages go to whites; that’s 14× the expected rate.

Cities with the most white-loving white people

#1 Greenville, MS

#2 Jackson, MS

#3 Montgomery, AL

#4 Memphis, TN

#5 Atlanta, GA

The most segregated city north of the Mason-Dixon line is a surprising one: New York. White New Yorkers message other white New Yorkers at about 2× the national rate, probably about Animal Collective.


It seems that generally, people of all races write down to blacks and Latinos and up to Asians and whites. This is a pretty crazy result: proof that race not only affects the quantity of the contacts between people, but the quality as well. For example, the average black person writes at a level almost one full grade-level higher when writing to a white person than when writing to another black person.

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