Are Dating Apps Racist?

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 9.32.06 AMWhy we don’t get more love online

by Jalesa Tucker

Great news for all the single ladies. New York Times writer Molly Wood recently reported that the steady increase in smartphones usage has led to a surge in the popularity of mobile dating apps like Tinder, Hinge, and Zoosk. Wood writes “It’s easier, faster and more discreet to swipe through an app than to create laborious online profiles.” According to the Pew Research Center 1 out of 10 adults between the ages of 25 and 34 years old has used a mobile dating app. While many singles would consider the new found mainstream appeal of mobile dating apps reason to rejoice–research from okCupid examines the extent to which racial bias plays in the number of responses users receive to their profiles. And it doesn’t look pretty for Black men who date outside the race and for Black women at all.

In a study conducted between 2009 and 2014, researchers looked at how people rated different racial groups according to their preferences. The data showed that all women shared a fondness for members of their own race but otherwise penalized or showed the least inclination for Asian and Black men. Black men showed no inclination toward any racial group while non-black men showed the least interest in Black women.

According to Christian Rudder, author of Dataclysm “One interesting thing about OkCupid’s interface is that we allow people to select more than one race, so you can actually look at people who’ve combined “white” with another racial description. Adding “whiteness” always helps your rating! In fact it goes a long way towards undoing any bias against you.”

Despite little change in the overall behavioral pattern of mobile daters, over time users have shown less bias when answering questions about their racial attitude.

It’s no secret that the world of mobile dating can be a cold and heartless place, where people make snap decisions based heavily on the attractiveness of profile pictures. But what exactly does this data mean for races shown the least preference—like Black women? Are people on dating apps more racist? No, according to Rudder, who says that at least they aren’t any more racist than anyone else since data from other kinds of matchmaking sites show the same pattern or racial preferences for certain groups.

For African American’s main stream apps like Tinder, Zoosk, and okCupid offer little rewards despite high engagement. It seems as in life, people discriminate on apps too.  That may explain why some Blacks have turned to dating apps like Meld which cater to a specifically African-American singles looking for love.

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