Crossracial differences in the racial preferences of potential dating partners: A Test of the alienation of African Americans and social dominance orientation

Article (PDF Available)inSociological Quarterly 50(1):121 - 143 · January 2009with 317 Reads
DOI: 10.1111/j.1533-8525.2008.01135.x
Cite this publication
Abstract
Studying interracial romance has been useful for understanding general race relations. Theories of African American alienation and social dominance orientation help explain why previous research has found African Americans to be the least desired racial dating partners. Alienation predicts that African Americans are less willing to interracially date than other racial groups since they are not allowed to participate in the majority culture. Social dominance orientation predicts that African Americans are more willing to interracially date than other racial groups because they occupy the lowest position in our racial hierarchy. This study utilizes an Internet dating website to explore the racial dating preferences of European Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans. The theory of African American alienation is upheld, as African Americans are generally less willing to interracially date than other races and are especially less willing to date European Americans.
Crossracial Differences in the Racial Preferences of Potential Dating Partners: A Test of
the Alienation of African-Americans and Social Dominance Orientation
George Yancey
University of North Texas
I thank Nicole Dash, Kevin Yoder, Starita Smith, and the anonymous reviewers for their
comments on this manuscript. I also thank Deborah Cosimo, Elizabeth Fisher and Ashley
Jarvis for helping me with the data coding. All correspondence concerning this article
should be addressed to George Yancey PO Box 311157, Department of Sociology,
University of North Texas, Denton, TX 76203, USA
1
Crossracial Differences in the Racial Preferences of Potential Dating Partners: A Test of
the Alienation of African-Americans and Social Dominance Orientation
Abstract
Studying interracial romance has been useful for understanding general
race relations. Theories of African-American alienation and social
dominance orientation help explain why previous research has found
African-Americans to be the least desired racial dating partners.
Alienation predicts that African-Americans are less willing to interracially
date than other racial groups since they are not allowed to participate in
the majority culture. Social dominance orientation predicts that African-
Americans are more willing to interracially date than other racial groups
because they occupy the lowest position in our racial hierarchy. This study
utilizes an internet dating website to explore the racial dating preferences
of European-Americans, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and
Asian-Americans. The theory of African-American alienation is upheld, as
African-Americans are generally less willing to interracially date than
other races and are especially less willing to date European-Americans.
2
Crossracial Differences in the Racial Preferences of Potential Dating Partners: A Test of
the Alienation of African-Americans in the United States
Studying interracial romance has been useful for understanding general race
relations in the United States (Gordon 1964; Lewis and Yancey 1995; Stember 1976). For
example, significant research suggests that African-Americans are the least desired
romantic racial partners (Gallagher 2004; Herring and Amissah 1997; Lewis and Yancey
1995; Spickard 1989; Tucker and Mitchell-Kernan 1990; Yancey 2003). Other empirical
efforts have documented low African-American outmarriage rates (Kalmijn 1998; Qian
1997) relative to other racial groups. Such work indicates a qualitatively higher degree of
social rejection of African-Americans than of other racial groups.
Researchers have argued that African-Americans have an exceptional experience
in the United States that makes the racism they face particularly alienating (Bobo and
Smith 1998; Gallagher 2004; Gans 1999; Glazer 1993; Warren and Twine 1997; Waters
1999; Yancey 2003). Such arguments imply that African-Americans have a distinctly
estranged place in our current racial structure. However, social dominance orientation
(SDO) contends that African-Americans’ estrangement differs in degree, but not in kind,
from that of other racial minorities. It predicts that lower status groups are more desirous
of interracial interaction than higher status groups (Fang et al. 1998; Pratto et al. 1994). It
predicts
This paper will extend the study of interracial romance as a way to comprehend
race relations with a quantitative examination of the racial dating preferences of
European-Americans, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Asian-Americans. I
3
am particularly interested in assessing whether dating preferences of African-Americans
differ from other racial groups.
A Hierarchy of Racial Preferences
All nonEuropean groups, and many European ethnic groups, have historically
experienced various types of racism in the United States. However, several scholars
(McNamara et al. 1999; Russell et al. 1992; Spickard 1989; Yancey 2003) argue that
African-Americans have faced exceptional social barriers. For example, the need to
legitimate slavery led to the desire to conceptualize African-Americans as biologically
different from majority group members (Moran 2001; Romano 2003; Spickard 1989).
This created the one-drop rule, which defined individuals with any African heritage as
black. Nonblacks who became sexually involved with blacks relegated their children to
the status of blacks and powerful historical formal sanctions developed against interracial
romances containing Africans or African-Americans (Davis 1991; Moran 2001; Spickard
1989).
These sanctions helped place African-Americans in a unique social position in
which they were separated from the majority group and faced powerful barriers that
prevented merging into the majority group. This historical separateness led to a
contemporary alienation of blacks from the majority group. Researchers have argued that
social inequality leads to the alienation of marginalized groups (Blau and Blau 1982;
Cable 1988; Jencks and Mayer 1990; McLoyd 1990; Oakes 2005; Weakliem and Borch
2006). Individuals who live in marginal social spaces do not have commitment to the
current social order and are “alienated” from values and concerns of those in the
mainstream. Our racialized society has created a situation in which people of color are
4
vulnerable to alienation (Bobo and Hutchings 1996; Feagin 1991; Schuman and Scott
1989). Du Bois (1969) discussed the duality African-Americans experienced because of
their subordinate social position. The unique historical circumstances African-Americans
experienced created a level of alienation that was distinctive from other racial groups.
Both Gallagher (2004) and Warren and Twine (1997) argue that boundaries of whiteness
are likely to expand to include other racial groups, but will continue to exclude African-
Americans. Glazer (1993) postulates that the persistence of African-American culture
may indicate an inability of African-Americans, relative to other racial minority groups,
to assimilate. Yancey (2003) and Gans (1999) go as far as to state that the alienated
position of African-Americans is so powerful that we may be moving towards a society
in which the estrangement of African-Americans will be the most important racial
feature. Thus general alienation theory gives way to a specific theory of alienation
whereas the unique experiences of African-Americans make them more likely to
experience rejection. This rejection may influence them to strive to stay within their own
group and remain separated from the larger society.
There is a significant amount of empirical evidence that African-Americans are
separate from the majority group to a qualitatively higher degree than other racial
minorities. Add-Health data indicates that African-Americans are less likely to have
interracial friendships than other racial groups (Quillian and Campbell 2003) and contact
with African-Americans is viewed with more hostility than contact with other races
(Bobo and Smith 1998). Furthermore, the degree of residential segregation in African-
American communities is higher than that of other racial minorities (Massey and Denton
1996). African-Americans are the least desired potential neighbor of majority group
5
members (Emerson et al. 2001) and nonblack racial minorities (Bobo and Zubrinsky
1996; Zubrinsky-Charles 2000). African-Americans are also less likely to marry
interracially than other minorities (Lee and Edmonston 2005) and the least desired
romantic partners by both whites and nonblack racial minorities (Gallagher 2004; Herring
and Amissah 1997; Lewis and Yancey 1995; Spickard 1989; Yancey 2003).
There are important consequences connected to the exceptional separation of
African-Americans from the majority group. African-Americans may highly value
loyalty to their own communities and in-group identity (Childs 2005; Fordham and Ogbu
1986) because they are less able to rely on resources in the majority group. Thus,
African-Americans may deal with their estrangement from the majority group with a
perspective that commands loyalty to their own race and rejects the majority group.
Social scientists have conceptualized this rejection as part of the exceptional experience
of African Americans. For example, Ogbu (1978; 1990) contends that African-Americans
have developed an “oppositional” culture that rejects mainstream cultural values.1
Furthermore, the commitment of black women to their own racial group makes it difficult
for some of them to considers romantic alliances with European-Americans (Childs 2005;
St. Jean and Parker 1995). Finally, there is evidence that African-Americans are less
willing to be involved in a multiracial congregation than other people of color (Emerson
2006).2 This evidence suggests that African-Americans reacted to their alienation from
the mainstream of society with their own forms of social rejection and cultural
separatism.
1 It should be noted that recently scholars have challenged Ogbu’s ideas concerning the effects of
oppositional culture on educational attainment (Flores-Gonzalez 2005; Foley 2005; Harris 2006).
2 In fact, African-Americans are about as likely to attend multiracial congregations as first-generation
immigrants (Emerson 2006). This suggests that they may be as estranged from the larger society as those
who are brand new to our culture, despite having been in the United States for the past few centuries.
6
Even though African-Americans may adjust to rejection with their own efforts at
distancing themselves from the majority group, they do not necessarily approve of being
rejected from the social mainstream. African-Americans have generally opposed formal
sanctions against interracial unions as they recognize such sanctions as part of the source
of their oppression (Romano 2003; Spickard 1989; Washington 1993). Thus, African-
Americans may have paradoxical attitudes to racial intermixing. The attitudes from
African-American oppositional culture can be to forgo seeking what is relatively
unobtainable – acceptance by nonblacks as social peers. However, African-Americans
may still resent the fact that such barriers exist. This resentment may account for research
suggesting that African-Americans are less willing to oppose interracial marriages in
general (Lewis and Yancey 1995; Sones and Holston 1988; Yancey 2003), regardless of
whether African-Americans accept or reject interracial romance for themselves.
It is possible that African-Americans reject interracial romance because they are
more enamored with their in-group members and culture than other racial groups. In
other words, African-Americans may be less likely to outdate simply because they are
less likely to be attracted to racial outgroups due to desire for their own in-group. That
desire, rather than rejection from the majority society, can be the source of a lack of racial
exogamy among African-Americans. This explanation suggests that African-Americans
possess a more powerful racial identity than other minority groups. But there is little
evidence that the ethnic identity of African-Americans is any more salient than the ethnic
identity of other marginalized racial groups (Hughes 2003; Phinney et al. 1997; Roberts
et al. 1999). A greater hesitancy for African-Americans to date outside of their race than
7
other racial groups is more likely connected to their possible experiences of alienation
than a heightened sense of racial pride.
An alternative to the argument that African-Americans’ unique alienation is the
way to understand general race relations in the United States can be found in SDO, which
predicts that desire to maintain hierarchical relationships shapes social relations (Pratto et
al. 1994). Thus, a continuous racial hierarchy exists in which racial groups are placed.
Fang et. al. (1998) find evidence of SDO with research suggesting that higher status
groups are less willing to become romantically involved with lower status groups because
such involvement produces an equality challenging the hierarchy that benefits higher
status groups. Interaction in romantic relationships may help lift lower groups into an
equal status with the higher group and thus the higher group loses power relative to the
lower group. SDO predicts that a group’s desire to interact with other groups is inversely
related to the status of that group.
Measurements of social distance can be used to illustrate SDO. SDO predicts the
existence of a continuous racial hierarchy in which blacks seek to move up to the status
of nonblack minorities who seek to move up to the status of whites. Research
documenting social distance (Bogardus 1968; Kleg and Yamamoto 1998; Owens et al.
1981) also indicates that nonblacks possess a higher social position than blacks, but lower
social position than whites. Therefore SDO suggests that African-Americans are lower
than other racial groups in degree, but not in kind. The same social forces that influence
other racial minorities should influence African-Americans, but with more intensity. If
this assertion is accurate, then African-Americans will have the greatest desire to interact
with other racial groups because of their low status and European-Americans will have
8
the lowest desire for such interaction because of their high status. Nonblack people of
color should score in between European- and African-Americans.
Since interracial romantic relationships are conceptualized as the closest level of
social distance (Bogardus 1968), it is reasonable to assess how African-Americans may
react to these social barriers through an examination of interracial romantic relationships.
To be specific, there is value in determining whether African-Americans approach
interracial dating in the same way as nonblack people of color and seek to date majority
group members. In fact SDO suggests that because they occupy the bottom position in
our racial hierarchy, African-Americans are more willing to interracially date than other
racial groups.
Previous Research on Interracial Romance
Census data documents that interracial marriages have grown to be 5.4% of all
married couples in the United States (Lee and Edmonston 2005). There is an emerging
body of literature on interracial romantic relationships, some of which has assessed if and
why individuals will engage in interracial romance (Blackwell and Lichter 2000; Fiebert
et al. 2000; Todd et al. 1992). Research on interracial romance generally concentrates
upon interracial marriages (Blackwell and Lichter 2000; Lewis and Yancey 1995;
McNamara et al. 1999; Qian 1997; Rosenblatt et al. 1995; Tucker and Mitchell-Kernan
1990), but those willing to date interracially may not also be willing to marry interracially
(Fiebert et al. 2004; Yancey 2002). To understand how individuals use racial screens in
romantic relationships, it is important to examine relationships at an early stage of
development. Some work examining interracial dating focuses on relational differences
between interracial and intraracial relationships (Harris and Kalbfleisch 2000; Stimson
9
and Stimson 1979; Vaquera and Kao 2005), while other research explores willingness to
date interracially (Fiebert et al. 2000; Mok 1999; Todd et al. 1992; Yancey and Yancey
1998) and who is, or was, in an interracial dating relationship (Fiebert et al. 2000; Martin
et al. 2003; Yancey 2002). Little research investigates individuals as they enter interracial
romantic relationships. One exception is Phua’s (2002) analysis of the internet personal
advertisements of men, but there is no work investigating the racial dating preferences of
both sexes with a national sample.
Hypothesis
Theories of the alienated position of African-Americans and SDO suggest why
nonblacks least prefer romantic engagement with blacks. Where these theories disagree is
whether African-Americans’ reactions to whites are the same as nonblack racial
minorities. Theories of social alienation postulate that African-Americans have a unique
social position that leads them to despair of ever receiving racial acceptance. They reject
that possibility and are more hesitate to engage in racial exogamy than other racial
groups. SDO argues that lower status groups seek association with higher status groups.
If African-Americans face the same types of disadvantages as other racial minorities,
then they should also have the same desires as other racial minorities to overthrow that
system by entering it through interracial romance.3
To test whether African-Americans seek interracial romantic relationships to the
same degree as nonblack people of color it is important to assess the willingness of both
3 Bonilla-Silva (2004) argues for a triracial, noncontinuous stratification structure that places whites as the
highest group, honorary whites as the middle group and collective blacks as the lowest group. Since he
describes the movement between these groups as potentially fluid, and there is a strong tendency towards
maintaining the bottom racial group it is unclear whether this triracial stratification theory postulates that
blacks face a type of discrimination that differs in kind and degree from nonblacks. Thus, it is ambiguous
whether this current research can document the accuracy of triracial stratification as a way to understand
interracial romance.
10
groups to initiate interracial romantic relationships. If SDO is accurate then African-
Americans should be more willing to seek out romantic relationships than nonblack
people of color. However, if African-Americans face unique alienation that
disproportionately influences them to be committed to their own racial in-group then
African-Americans should be less willing than other people of color to seek out
interracial romantic relationships. Alienation theory is silent on whether nonblack people
of color are more or less willing to interracially date than majority group members, yet
SDO predicts that nonblack people of color want to interracially date more than majority
group members.
The Use of Personal Advertisements to Assess Romantic Relationships
Assessment of the willingness of individuals to enter into romantic relationships
can be a better barometer of racial acceptance than measuring who actually interracially
marries if such assessments eliminate effects of propinquity and social opportunity. But
to date there is little, if any, generalizable work comparing the willingness of different
races to engage in interracial romance.
One way to assess willingness to interracially date is to examine personal
advertisements. Researchers have used content analysis of newspaper personal
advertisements to measure adherence to traditional gender roles (Campos et al. 2002),
understand the nature of courtship (Montini and Ovrebro 1990), and determine which
qualities make individuals more attractive to prospective romantic partners (Pawlowski
and Koziel 2002). Lynn and Bolig (1985) have pointed out three advantages of using
personal advertisements to research the creation of romantic relationships: 1) subjects not
aware of being studied, 2) subjects studied in a naturalistic rather than a laboratory
11
setting, and 3) subjects are representative of the general population. The second
advantage is acutely important because naturalness of the setting helps control for social
desirability effects. Because of potential social desirability effects (Hatchett and Schuman
1975; Schaeffer 1980), individuals who want to present themselves as racially tolerant
may not indicate in an interview/survey an unwillingness to date interracially. Yet there
are real consequences to such an evasion when individuals place a personal
advertisement, as they will have to personally reject unwanted suitors.
Internet personal advertisements can also be used to explore romantic
relationships. An advantage internet personal advertisements have is that daters are asked
directly to indicate which racial groups they will date. Since there is limited room in the
newspaper advertisement, an advertiser may omit his/her racial preferences and merely
filter out unwanted races. Furthermore, some individuals may only date same-race
partners because their local and social networks are racially homogenous. But use of
internet personal advertisements neutralizes this propinquity effect. Since a person
directly indicates his/her willingness to date interracially, advertisers with non-diverse
racial networks can reveal a willingness to date interracially even if they do not have
opportunities to do so.
Theoretically, any dater in the United States with internet access is a potential
respondent. However, potential respondents have to be willing to look for dating partners
online. It is plausible that online daters systematically differ from non-online daters.
Furthermore, there is work exploring online romance as a unique manifestation of our
mating tendencies (Ben-Ze'ev 2004; Lea and Spears 1993) although these efforts are not
based on systematic research. Systematic research has reinforced the idea that online
12
dating activities are similar to offline romantic efforts (Fiore and Donath 2005; Hitsch et
al. 2006; Whitty 2004). This current research endeavor is built on the assertion that online
dating patterns are indicative of general attitudes towards romance.
For example, Sautter et. al. (2006) finds that while individuals who date online do
differ in sex, race, age education, income and religiosity from the general population,
these demographic differences largely go away once internet use and marital status is
controlled. Marital status of those seeking romantic relationships naturally differs from
the general population. Furthermore, internet access has become more available in the
last few years and relatively few individuals are completely devoid of internet
availability.4 Sautter et. al.’s research provides a measure of confidence in the
generalizability of online daters to the rest of the dating population after demographic
factors are controlled. Hitsch et. al. (2006) examine not only internet personal
advertisements, but also other online actions (i.e. browsing patterns, use of emails). The
actions of the daters are consistent with intentions stated in their advertisements. They
also compared online users to the local population in San Diego and Boston and
document that while there are educational and age differences between the online
population and the general population, these differences are not large. They conclude that
online dating has become more accepted in the recent years allowing researchers to gain
assessments of the dating populations through online dating sites. Their assertions are
supported by their finding that demographic patterns of romantic interactions is very
similar to demographic patterns observed in marital data for San Diego and Boston.
Methods
4 For example, 98 percent of all public schools (Cattagni and Farris 2001) and 95.7 percent of all public
libraries (Bertot and McClure 2000) had access to the internet in 2000.
13
Data from this project was downloaded in June of 2005 from the Yahoo!
Personals website (WWW.personal.yahoo.com/). The usernames of each dater were
erased to protect the respondent’s identity. There are other personal advertisements
websites (i.e. Match.com, Lavalife), but they tend to cater to specific dating pool niches.
Yahoo! is a popular search engine attracting a wide range of individuals and Orr (2004)
indicates that Yahoo! maintains the dating website utilized most by online users. While
Yahoo! allows for searches in the United States and Canada, this current research
endeavor is limited to the United States. I set the search engine so that there were no
restrictions upon the potential daters selected, and I included those without a photo.
Because individuals are providing information online, there may be a self-
presentation bias. Individuals likely present themselves in the best possible light and it is
plausible that some respondents will underreport their age and/or overreport their
educational level. However, such exaggerations are not likely to affect how one reports
his/her race or races he/she is willing to date. The respondent has a self-interest in being
accurate in presenting such information to make sure that he/she receives only desired
responses to his/her advertisements. There is little reason to believe that desire to make
oneself look more attractive differs according to one’s willingness to date interracially.
Furthermore, Ellison et. al. (2006) find that individuals tend to make online presentations
that are fairly accurate, since discrepancies of the online self and actual self will create
problems in future face to face meetings.
Yahoo! allows potential daters to search as far as 250 miles from any given city,
but not for a random sample of the entire United States and so I utilized a stratified
sampling technique. To address concerns about the willingness of individuals to date
14
interracially who live in regions or small cities with little racial diversity I stratified this
sample by region and city size.5 I used GSS categories to create nine regions (Pacific,
Mountain, West South Central, West North Central, East South Central, East North
Central, New England, South Atlantic, and Middle Atlantic). The largest city in each
region was automatically selected. The rest of the cities were divided into those with
more than 25,000 inhabitants and those with fewer than 25,000 inhabitants. Three cities
were randomly chosen in each region from the former group of cities and five cities were
randomly chosen in each region from the latter group. Thus, nine cities were chosen from
each region, allowing for regional and city size diversity. The 25,000 inhabitants cutoff
was used for convenience since Census data provided the listing of all cities over 25,000.
While the cutoff is fairly arbitrary, it does allow for some control for city size.
From the largest city in the region forty dater profiles were chosen (twenty men
and twenty women). From each medium size city (more than 25,000 inhabitants, but not
the largest city in the region) ten dater profiles were chosen (five men and five women).
From each small city (less than 25,000 inhabitants) four profiles were chosen (two men
and two women).6 If a particular city did not have any dater profiles on Yahoo!, then an
appropriate size city in the region was randomly chosen to take its place.7
The advertisement only contained individuals seeking heterosexual relationships,
so I did not confound findings with sexual preference effects. After the advertisements
were coded I discovered that I did not have enough advertisements of African-
5 Babbie (1995) suggests that stratified sampling can be even more useful than even simple random samples
since it allows the researcher to focus upon the dimensions the researcher has identified as particularly
important.
6 Since the data would be weighted, I did not worry about finding a proper number of respondents to be
chosen at each level of city size. Thus, the number of individuals chosen from each size of city was
arbitrary. However I choose more individuals from larger cities since it was easier to find enough
individuals of a given minority race in those cities.
7 This occurred seven times during the collection of the data.
15
Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Asian-Americans to make useful cross-racial
comparisons so I collected an oversample of these groups. I randomly selected two
members of each racial group (a male and a female) from each large city on the previous
list. I then randomly selected one of the previously chosen medium size cities in each
region and chose two members of each racial group from that city. If members of that
group were not found I randomly selected another previously chosen medium size city. I
conducted the same procedure for the small cities although it was not always the case that
I could find two African-Americans, two Hispanic-Americans and two Asian-Americans
from all five small cities in the region. In those cases I did not add other cities to the list
but used the number of people of color collected from that region. This procedure added a
total of forty eight African-American, forty six Hispanic-American and forty one Asian-
American daters. The oversample was done only six months after the original sampling.
The questionnaire used was exactly the same. There is no reason that the general dating
patterns of the daters of Yahoo! were different six months later. The oversample only
adds to the knowledge this data can provide about racial minorities seeking an opposite-
sex romantic partner. A total of 1,076 individuals comprise the sample for this research.
Variables
Each participant indicated his/her own race and races he/she is willing to date.
The racial categories used were African-American (black), Asian, Caucasian (white),
East Indian, Hispanics/Latino, Middle Eastern, Native American, Pacific Islander, Inter-
racial8 and Other. This current research is limited to only African-American, Asian,
Caucasian and Hispanic/Latino daters to ensure that I would have enough respondents for
8 Interracial was created by all individuals who self-defined themselves as multiracial. It is impossible to
make any genetic or phenotypic assessments of who placed his/herself in this category.
16
each racial group. The dater could pick as many, or as few, racial groups as he/she
wanted to date or could pick the category “any.” Respondents who refused to indicate
their race or races of individuals they wanted to date are excluded since it is impossible to
determine the willingness of such advertisers to interracially date. Only 44 of the 1,076
respondents refused to provide their racial identity and only 18 respondents refused to
indicate races of individuals they wished to date.
The respondents were divided up into four major racial groups (WHITES,
BLACKS, HISPANICS or ASIANS). There is a great deal of ethnic diversity within
Hispanic and Asian Americans communities, but Yahoo! did not provide daters with a
way to reflect ethnic diversity. It is quite possible that some individuals are more willing
to become romantically involved outside of their race than with members of different
ethnic groups within their own race (see Hwang et al. 1997). However, limitations of this
data prevent me from investigating this possibility.
Independent variables also include AGE, FEMALE, CITY SIZE, EDUCATION
(some high school, high school graduate, some college, college graduate or post-
graduate), CHRISTIAN and ATTENDANCE (never, rarely, only on holidays, monthly,
weekly or more than once a week) of religious services.9 Higher values of EDUCATION,
and ATTENDANCE respectively indicate higher education, and religiosity. I divided the
daters into NORTHEAST, NORTHCENTRAL, SOUTH and WEST according to GSS
9 Age may not be best specified as a continuous variable and a four level education variable is also
problematic. I tested to see if age is misspecified with models with age as a logged variable. Such models
did not increase the predictive abilities of the models nor was the logged age variable any more likely to be
significant. I am limited to only four categories of education because of the way this variable was
constructed on the Yahoo! website. However, I also tested education with a dummy variable based on
whether the respondent had received a bachelor degree or not. Once again this variable did not increase the
predictive abilities of the models nor was it any more likely to be significant in these models than the four
level education variable.
17
designations. The information was weighted by the U.S. Census.10 I calculated the
percentage of people in the U.S. for each region and by size of the city. I applied that
percentage to the appropriate region and city size group.11 Advertisements from
individuals from larger cities are more likely to be selected since forty profiles from
larger cities in each region are chosen instead of sixteen from the smallest cities. To
compensate for the disproportionate number of people chosen from larger cities, I divided
this weight number by 2.5 for those in the largest cities in the region, by 1.8 for those in
the medium cities and not at all for those in the smallest cities. Likewise the people of
color in the oversample increased the likelihood of African, Hispanic and Asian-
Americans being chosen. Thus, for respondents in the oversample of racial minorities I
divided the weight number individuals from the large cities by 5.6, individuals from the
medium cities to 4.2 and individuals from the small cities by 2.6.12
Results
Table 1 provides an assessment of which racial groups individuals are willing to
date. Under each column, the percentage of each racial group willing to date that
particular racial group is given. Each racial group is significantly more likely to date their
own group members than people of other races. For example, the 98 percent of European-
10 Ideally I would use a national sample that only included those seeking romantic partners. But such a
sample does not exist. Even using just the unmarried population in the Census would provide a distorted
number as many of those unmarrieds are either currently in a romantic relationship or are not seeking a
romantic relationship. Thus to simplify the assessment I included all individuals in the Census as a proxy
for the distribution of the population in the United States.
11 Using a weight procedure to link a non-probability sample to a probability sample is recommended by
Fowler (2002).
12 When the oversample is excluded, 48.6% of the sample comes from large cities and 31.1% of the sample
comes from medium cities. Dividing the 48.6% in large cities by 2.5 reduces the impact of all of those from
large cities to 19.44% of the population and dividing the 31.1% in medium cities by 1.8 reduces the impact
of all those from medium cities to 17.27% of the population. This equalizes the impact of people from each
size of city despite the higher numbers selected from the larger cities. When the oversample is added then
47.5 % of the sample comes from large cities, and 32.7% of the sample comes from medium cities. The
weight numbers of 5.6, 4.2, and 2.6 reduces the impact from large, medium and small cities respectively to
8.48%, 7.79% and 7.58% of the population. Such reductions make comparison of the percentages in table 1
more accurate.
18
Americans willing to date other European-Americans is significantly higher than the 49.2
percent willing to date African-Americans, 60.5 percent willing to date Hispanic-
Americans and 58.5 percent willing to date Asian-Americans. This reveals the in-group
romantic racial preferences within the United States (Gordon 1964; Root 2001; Spickard
1989). Such powerful in-group preferences indicate that an overwhelming majority of
Americans are free to ignore interracial romance and can expect to find, if they wish,
someone of their own race. Since interracial dating is optional, different preferences of
this practice between contrasting racial groups are possible.
“Put Table 1 about here”
In keeping with previous research, it is evident that African-Americans are the
least desired dating partners. The percentage of European-Americans willing to date
African-Americans (49.2%) is significantly lower than the percentage willing to date
Hispanic-Americans (60.5%) and Asian-Americans (58.5%). A similar finding is
confirmed for Asian-Americans as the percentage of them willing to date African-
Americans (69.5%) is significantly lower than the percentage willing to date European-
Americans (87.3%). The percentage of Hispanic-Americans willing to date African-
Americans (56.5%) is significantly lower than the percentage willing to date European-
Americans (80.3%). However, African-Americans are relatively unwilling to date other
races. The percentage of African-Americans willing to date Asian-Americans (43.5%) is
significantly lower than the percentage of European-Americans (58.5%) and Hispanic-
Americans (60.7%) willing to date Asian-Americans. The percentage of African-
Americans willing to date Hispanic-Americans (61.0%) is significantly lower than the
percentage of Asian-Americans willing to date Hispanic-Americans (80.5%). The
19
percentage of African-Americans willing to date European-Americans (59.6%) is
significantly lower than the percentage of Hispanic-Americans (80.3%) and Asian-
Americans (87.3%) willing to date European-Americans. Furthermore, African-
Americans are significantly less willing to date, regardless of race, than all other racial
groups. On the other hand, Asian-Americans indicate a strong willingness to date outside
of their race as they are the racial group most willing to date regardless of race and are
more willing than European-Americans to date African-Americans and Hispanic-
Americans.13
As further evidence of the comparative unwillingness of African-Americans to
date outside of their race I calculated the percentage of each racial group who will only
date their own race. Weighted measures indicated that 30 percent of all African-
Americans are only willing to date African-Americans, 8 percent of all Hispanic-
Americans are only willing to date Hispanic-Americans and 8.7 percent of all Asian-
Americans are only willing to date Asian-Americans. These differences show that
African-Americans are more likely to stay within their racial group than other racial
minorities – indicative of an alienation experienced by African-Americans that escapes
other people of color. It is also the case that 33.1 percent of all European-Americans are
only willing to date European-Americans. SDO suggests that European-Americans would
be less willing to date outside their race so that they can maintain their racial advantage,
but it offers no explanation for why African-Americans would be less willing to date
13 Compared to the findings of Fiebert et. al. (2000), the European-American respondents in this sample
were less likely to date outside of their race while Asian-American respondents were more likely to date
outside their race. These differences are likely connected to the fact that Fiebert et. al.’s research is based
on a local sample in California and collected through written surveys, which are more susceptible to social
desirability effects.
20
interracially. Thus, while European-Americans and African-Americans have similar
levels of in-group racial dating preferences, it is likely for quite different reasons.
I constructed logistical regression models that examined the propensity to date
individuals regardless of race and to date individuals of a specific race. As suggested by
Winship and Radbill (1994), I removed the weights from the variables so that standard
errors would not be inflated. The models controlled for sex, city size, age, education,
whether the dater is a Christian, religious service attendance, region of country (WEST is
reference group) and race (WHITE is reference group). Original models also controlled
for political ideology and income. However, inclusion of these variables did not add
much explanatory power and produced a high number of missing cases. The only
exception is that political ideology is significant at the .1 level in the model that measured
the dating of blacks, but the number of respondents in this model was reduced to 172.
Table 2 displays betas and estimated odds ratios in these logistical regression models.
The first model is an assessment of the respondents’ willingness to date individuals
regardless of race. Each subsequent column represents willingness of respondents to date
a particular racial group. Under each of the last four categories, the race of the daters
asked about was excluded from the analysis. For example, the “Date White” model did
not include European-American respondents.14
“Put Table 2 about here”
With one important exception, the racial effects largely disappeared once social
and demographic controls are applied. The exception is that African-Americans retained
their hesitation to date European-Americans in the “Date White” model. To see if this
effect was due to the use of Asian-Americans as the reference group, I also ran the model,
14 In the “Date White” model Asian-Americans are the reference group.
21
not shown here, with Hispanic-Americans as the reference group. BLACK was
significant at the .01 level (odds ratio = .241). Otherwise the racial effects are not
significant, indicating that they are tied to social and demographic differences. It should
be noted that after these controls are applied, European-Americans are not any less
willing to date outside of their race than other racial groups. This is counter to the SDO
prediction that European-Americans would be less willing to interracial date than other
racial groups.
Ethnic differences within Hispanic and Asian groups are not captured in this
research endeavor. A major factor that differentiates ethnic groups is their degree of
assimilation. One may expect assimilated groups to be more willing to date outside of
their race. Education and adherence to Christianity are two factors linked to the
possibility that an ethnic group has assimilated (Alumkal 2003; Carliner 2000; Delgado-
Gaitan and Trueba 1991; Yang 1999). For example, Korean Americans may be more
willing to date interracially since they have high levels of education and adherence to
Christian beliefs when compared to other Asian groups (Lee 2005; Min and Kim 2002).
In table 3, models indicate the propensity of Hispanic and Asian-Americans to date either
European or African-Americans. Regional variables are dropped because there is little
reason to believe that regional differences are related to the propensity of these groups to
assimilate and to compensate for the low numbers of respondents.15
“Place Table 3 about here”
15 Because of the low number respondent in these models I calculated events per predictor variables (EPV)
for each model. In models with Hispanics this resulted in a score of 10.3, which is higher than the score of
10 that is recommended under most logistical models (Peduzzi et al. 1996). In Asian models the EPV is
only 8, but Vittinghoff and McCulloch (2007) suggest EPV scores in the range 5-9 do not usually generate
problematic analysis.
22
The results of these models clearly indicate that neither education nor adherence
to Christianity is a powerful indicator of the willingness of either Hispanic or Asian-
Americans to date European-Americans or African-Americans. There is some evidence
that Christianity may be a barrier to the propensity of Hispanic-Americans to date
African-Americans. However, Christianity seems to encourage Asian-Americans to date
African-Americans, and thus it is unclear the effects Christian belief has on the
propensity of immigrant ethnic groups to date African-Americans. These results suggest
that more assimilated Hispanic or Asian ethnic groups are not necessarily more likely to
date interracially than other ethnic groups. While ideally it would be best to test directly
for ethnic differences, it is reasonable to argue that some of the factors related to these
ethnic differences do not strongly predict dating preferences of Hispanic and Asian-
Americans. Ethnic differences may influence the willingness to interracially date, but this
analysis casts some doubts as to how powerful those effects are.
There are other important findings not connected to the desire of different racial
groups to date interracially. Those willing to date outside of their race tended to be male
and younger. Surprisingly, education was not found to be an important predictor of
willingness to date interracially since there is evidence that the highly educated are more
likely to marry interracially (Qian 1997). However, Emerson and Sikkink (2008) found
that the highly educated may not be more willing to perform racially inclusive actions
than the less educated. Higher levels of interracial marriages among the highly educated
may be due to the differential opportunities the educated have for interracial romance and
not to their higher willingness for interracial romance.16
16 In separate models for each racial groups I also tested education as a dummy variable separating those
who received a college degree from those who had not. Education was not found to be significant in any of
those models except for Asians asked about whether they would date blacks. In that model education was
positively related to the propensity of Asians to be willing to date African-Americans.
23
Conclusion
An advantage of this research is its ability to assess directly an individual’s
willingness to engage in interracial dating. This willingness can be gauged regardless of
the actual diversity of his/her social network and in a social situation where there are real
consequences for the respondent to express inaccurate racial preferences. The possibility
of a social desirably effect is greatly reduced with this research design. This work
indicates that interracial romance is accepted to a significant degree in the United States.
The fact that almost half of all European-Americans are willing to date African-
Americans and nearly three of every five African-Americans are willing to date
European-Americans is a positive development given the history of racial animosity
directed at interracial relationships. Consistent with Fiebert et. al.’s (2000; 2004)
research, I find a fairly high degree of acceptance of interracial dating within all racial
groups. Previous research (Schuman and Steeh 1996; Spickard 1989) has indicated that
openness towards interracial romance has grown over the past several decades, and this
research substantiates the relatively high level of support interracial romance enjoys
today.
However, this research also indicates that African-Americans are less willing to
engage in interracial dating, particularly as it concerns European-Americans, than
Hispanic and Asian-Americans. Something accounts for this tendency. Previous
qualitative (Childs 2005; Rosenblatt et al. 1995) and historical (Romano 2003; Spickard
1989) work suggests that African-Americans are relatively unwilling to trust European-
Americans and fear romantic relationships with them. This current empirical effort
indicates that the distrust African-Americans have towards majority group members is
24
significantly higher than towards nonblack people of color and significantly higher than
the distrust other people of color have towards majority group members. It is possible
that African-Americans are less likely, than other races, to be physically attracted to
members of other races, especially European-Americans. However, since previous
research suggests an Eurocentric bias in evaluation of physical beauty (Hill 2002; Liu et
al. 1995; Russell et al. 1992), it is unlikely that African-Americans would be less able
than other racial minority groups to find European-Americans physically attractive. The
distinct alienation African-Americans experience likely leads to a comparatively lower
level of trust of majority group members as romantic partners. Majority group members
may better, than nonblack people of color, represent the dominant culture that has
alienated them and so African-Americans can be more incline to reject interracial
romances with whites than with nonblack racial minorities. Future qualitative research
should investigate how African-Americans differently perceive interracial relationships
with white partners instead of nonblack partners of color.
This interpretation explains why African-Americans are unwilling to condemn
interracial relationships in general, even while they are more likely to avoid those
relationships than nonblacks. Condemning interracial relationships may indirectly
endorse racist ideologies that buttress the alienation African-Americans experience, even
as that alienation discourages them from entering into those relationships themselves.
Therefore, the finding of African-Americans being comparatively less willing to
interracially date does not contradict previous research indicating that African-Americans
are supportive of interracial relationships including their family and friends (Lewis and
Yancey 1995; Rosenblatt et al. 1995; Yancey 2003).
25
SDO has been conceptualized as a desire of higher status groups to maintain
hierarchy through social separation (Fang et al. 1998; Levin et al. 2002; Sidanius et al.
1996). There is limited support for SDO since European-Americans are less willing than
nonblack minorities to date interracially at the zero order level. But the fact that African-
Americans are comparatively unwilling to interracially date, and regression results
illustrating that nonblack racial minorities are not more willing to date other people of
color than majority group members, indicate that SDO predictions are generally not
upheld.
African-American females are especially unlikely to engage in interracial
relationships (Childs 2005; St. Jean and Parker 1995; Todd et al. 1992). The findings of
this study may be the result of the intense dislike of African-American women for
interracial dating. Yet regression models, not shown but available from the author, with
just men indicated that African-American men are still more reluctant than Hispanic-
American men to date European-Americans at the .05 level (odds ratio = .171) and more
reluctant than Asian-American men to date European-Americans at the .1 level (odds
ratio = .319). A racial effect must be taken into account, even if that racial effect is more
potent among women. An interpretation of the higher likelihood of African-American
men to marry European-Americans than African-American women (Batson et al. 2006;
Heaton and Jacobson 2000) can be that European-American women are more willing to
cross racial barriers than European-American men. But this does not comport with the
fact that European-American men are more likely than European-American women to
marry Hispanic-Americans and Asian-Americans (Spickard 1989). The romantic
preferences of African-American women must also be taken into account. Analysis, not
26
shown but available from author, indicate that the percentage of African-American
women willing to date European-American men (49.6%) is significantly lower, at the .05
level, than the percentage of European-American men willing to date African-American
women (57.4%). African-American volition helps shape the sex differences in
black/white interracial romance. Work exploring interracial romance must factor in the
relative unwillingness of African-Americans to engage in racial exogamy.
While this study provides direct evidence about patterns of interracial romance,
and indirect evidence of African-American alienation, there is more empirical work to be
done. This research is limited to only four racial groups and similar internet research
exploring other racial groups (i.e. Native Americans, biracial individuals) would provide
additional information. Information may also be gained by exploring specialized dating
websites, such as those catering to political conservatives (Conservadate.com) or
vegetarians (veggiedate.com). Such work can discover which subcultures are more
reflective of predictions put forth by African-American alienation. Finally, qualitative
work investigating how individuals make dating decisions would augment these findings
and help us better understand interracial dating patterns.
References
27
Table 1 - Weighted Percentages of Willingness to Date Members of Certain Races
Date Date Date Date Date
Whites Blacks Hispanics Asians Any Race
Whites (n=633) 98.0 49.2 60.5 58.5 45.8
Blacks (n=185) 59.6b92.1b61.0 43.5b32.6b
Hispanics (n=102) 80.3bd 56.5d93.2bd 60.7d47.6c
Asians (n=77) 87.3ad 69.5bde 80.5bdf 92.2bdg 64.4bdf
Total N = 997
a-significantly different from White at .01 level
b-significantly different from White at .001 level
c-significantly different from Black at .01 level
d-significantly different from Black at .001 level
e-significantly different from Hispanic at .05 level
f-significantly different from Hispanic at .01 level
g-significantly different from Hispanic at .001 level
28
Table 2 – Betas and Estimated Odds Ratios of Being Willing to date Regardless of race
or of a Specific Racial Group.
Date Date Date Date Date
Any Race White Black Hispanic Asian
FEMALE -.851c-.792a-.575b-1.26c-1.758c
(.427) (.453) (.563) (.284) (.172)
CITY -.074 -.578a.034 .137 .037
(.928) (.561) (1.035) (1.146) (1.037)
AGE -.021b-.004 -.023b-.021a-.014
(.979) (.996) (.977) (.979) (.986)
EDUCATION -.021 .053 -.046 -.086 -.067
(.979) (1.054) (.955) (.917) (.935)
CHRISTIAN -.356 .512 -.248 -.272 -.525a
(.701) (1.668) (.781) (.762) (.592)
ATTENDANCE -.122 -.065 -.107 -.131 -.131
(.885) (1.067) (1.113) (1.14) (1.14)
29
WEST * * * * *
NORTHCENTRAL .101 .211 -.073 -.193 -.117
(1.106) (1.236) (.93) (.824) (.889)
NORTHEAST .057 -.638 -.091 -.144 .076
(1.058) (.529) (.913) (.866) (1.079)
SOUTH -.417 -.567 -.501 -.559a-.364
(.659) (.567) (.606) (.572) (.695)
WHITE * ---- * * *
BLACK -.281 -2.054c---- -.292 -.377
(.755) (.128) (.747) (.686)
HISPANIC -.407 -.631 -.324 ---- -.421
(.666) (.532) (.723) (.656)
ASIAN -.066 * .326 -.074 ----
(.936) (.953) (.929)
N 637 240 507 575 589
Nagelkerke R2.115 .217 .076 .16 .252
-2 Log Likelihood 805.219 257.805 672.976 687.209 687.989
Notes – In each of the last four models members of the racial group asked about are excluded.
a – p < .05, b – p < .01, c – p < .001
* - reference group
---- - Not included in model.
30
Table 3 – Betas and Estimated Odds Ratios of Being Willing to date Whites or Blacks for
Hispanic and Asian-Americans.
Hispanic-Americans Asian-Americans
Date Date Date Date
White Black White Black
FEMALE -.814 -1.661b2.349* -.659
(.443) (.19) (10.476) (.517)
CITY -.314 -1.25a-.625 -1.168*
(.731) (.286) (.535) (.311)
AGE .099*-.037 .024 -.126b
(1.105) (.964) (1.024) (.882)
EDUCATION .054 .048 .117 .612
(1.056) (1.05) (1.124) (1.844)
CHRISTIAN .538 -1.238* .935 1.779*
(1.713) (.29) (2.547) (5.926)
ATTENDANCE -.093 -.154 .905 -.203
(.911) (.857) (2.472) (.816)
31
N 62 62 48 48
Nagelkerke R2.191 .337 .335 .427
-2 Log Likelihood 53.028 66.46 26.807 47.938
* - p < .1, a – p < .05, b – p < .01
32
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