Interracial relationships – who is attracted to who?

[See also my post 'Racial preferences and online dating‘ and also ‘Status and interracial marriages‘]

Johann Happolati responded to my post on racial preferences in online dating by noting that there are important sex differences in who is crossing what racial boundaries. His recounting of the unpleasant situation has moved me to hope that by playing around with numbers all of this stuff would go away. I was not entirely successful, but I did make many interesting discoveries along the way.

So, anyways, all this talk of racial preferences inevitably brings up the question: are some races in general more attractive to the men or women of certain other races?

First we will remind the reader of the evidence that all races have a general preference for their own, at least in terms of dating and marrying, and women more so than men. And not just in terms of what they claim to want, but as demonstrated in online dating sites by the likelihood of sending a message, or replying to a message.

But, even given that tendency, there is still plenty of room for varying degrees of attraction to other races depending on one’s sex and race.

The data isn’t really conclusive in many cases:

Some studies report (source: 1,2,3,4,5) that black women are considered less attractive by some other ethnicities. The well-known Kanazawa study, which claimed that the nationally representative ADD Health survey found African women were less attractive, has been much criticized, most notably by Kaufman and Wicherts.  Kaufman and Wicherts also found little to suggest differences between men of different races.

Michael Lewis has done a series of three studies in the U.K., where the same trend in interracial marriages exists as in the U.S. All three show higher ratings of attractiveness  for black men compared to white, and in the third, both over asian men. In all three as well, white women are rated more attractive than black women, and, in the last study, in which asian women are included, they are rated the most attractive. In one study mixed race male faces were rated intermediate to black and white male faces, but in another, black males were rated more highly (sources: 1,2,3). The studies, however, involve fairly small numbers of students, between 10 and 20 women rating men, and a similar number for men rating women.

A survey of over 2,500 whites asked which race they found most physically attractive, and found that overall 62.7% of women and 48.2% of men were most physically attracted to other whites, much of the rest claimed no preference, 12% of men and 3% of women found asians most attractive, and 1.5% of men and 1.9% of women found blacks most attractive. Political view had a very noticeable effect.

In another study, asian males were rated as least attractive, including by asian women, although asian men also rated asian women as less attractive than whites and hispanics. Black women were rated as the least attractive. White and asian women gave lower ratings of attractiveness to black men.

The data is not conclusive, but given the high sex-disparity in interracial marriages, it is plausible that there might be some difference.


OK, now let’s look at what people actually do:

Data from online dating sites shows that black men and women are responded to less than one would expect. Asian males actually receive a slightly higher response rate, and white males, much higher (among women in general – there are differences depending on race).

Update: Here’s data taken from Facebook app ‘Are You Interested’ which shows the highest and lowest positive response rate by race and gender when notified that someone has clicked ‘yes’ to the prompt ‘I like what I see’ when viewing their profile.


If you look at 2008 PEW survey data, whites, both men and women, marry other races at a low rate, and those interracial marriages are not evenly distributed, as well see below:

Using the U.S. census data, asians make up 13% of the non-white population, blacks make up 34%, hispanics 45%, which leaves 10% for ‘other’).

As you can figure out from the above information, white men are marrying asians and ‘other’ at about twice the rate they should be, hispanics at the expected rate, and blacks at less than 1/5 of the rate they should be. White women are marrying ‘others’ also at about twice the expected rate, however, they are marrying hispanics at a slightly higher rate than are white men, while they are marrying asians and blacks at lower than expected rates: asians at 3/4, and blacks at 4/7, of what would be expected.

In other words, in the marriage market, asian men are actually more popular with white women than are black men.


But, of course, these days we can’t just talk about the married people – what about cohabitating couples? This is somewhat older data, from the 2000 census.

The picture changes here somewhat:

Once again, taking into account how much each of the minority population makes up of the non-white population (Asian: 13%; Blacks: 34%; Hispanics: 45%; Others: 10%), we see that white men are cohabitating with black women at 1/4 expected rate (8.8% of those cohabiting with non-whites), hispanics at the expected rate (46%), asians at 1.5x expected (18%), and ‘others’ at 2.8x the expected rate (28%).

For white women, cohabitation rates with blacks are almost the expected rate (32.5% of those cohabiting with non-whites), Hispanics are also just slightly under expected (43%), Asian men are doing somewhat worse here than in marriage, with only about 2/5 the expected rate (5.3%), and, finally, the always popular ‘others’ at twice the expected rate (20%).

In other words, there is change, but it doesn’t radically alter the picture: white men and black women still aren’t having much to do with each other, and white men still really like asian and ‘other’ women; white women have changed slightly more: while Hispanics maintain their position at the point that they should be at, and ‘Others’ remain the most popular groups, cohabitation rates are now almost what one would expect for blacks – but asian men become  less popular.

The point is, though, that the only group that is actually ‘popular’ with white women is the ‘other’ category, whereas for white men, asians and ‘others’ are popular. White men and black women are consistently not even remotely close to expected, while for white women both blacks and asians have a combined (marriage and cohabitation) rate that is less than expected (and less drastic than the white-man/black-woman gap). As noted above, women marry asians more (relatively speaking – according to their share of the minority population) than they do blacks, but cohabitate with blacks more than asians. Hispanics are consistently about exactly as popular as they should be.

“Should be” itself needs to be remembered in context –  in both marriage and cohabitation stats, people are disproportionately likely to be with someone of their own race, especially whites, who never fall below 90% white-white relationships, even in cohabitation stats, despite only being 64% of the national population. And so it needs to be remembered that when I said whites were marrying or cohabiting inter-racially at the expected amount, they are in fact marrying minorities at much less than expected amounts for the population as a whole – the comparison above was simply in terms of how minorities compared against each other.

For more graphs see this post at Audacious Epigone.

One more note: it is clear that white men’s preferences are skewing the picture both in marriage and cohabitation, artificially creating for many the impression that women have an opposite preference, which does not seem to be the case – in fact, white women are less interested in both blacks and asians, and more interested in Hispanics and ‘Others’. But, of course, both white men and women are much more interested in other whites.

(Some have proposed black women’s racial loyalty as an explanation for why there aren’t more white-male/black-woman couples, but this is unsatisfactory. For one thing, women of all races generally state a higher preference for dating someone of their own race than men do. Secondly, if you see my post on racial preferences in online dating, you’ll see that black women actually respond to black men at the lowest rate relative to what one would expect, and they respond to men of all other races at a higher level.)


A 2005 Gallup poll also has information on interracial dating in the U.S., rather than cohabitation or marriage. Not surprisingly, more people have dated someone of another race than actually cohabit with or marry someone of another race. Below is the important table, which includes an odd result. According to this, 25% of white men and 24% of white women have dated a black person. Given the huge disparity in terms of white men and women who cohabit or marry blacks, this result seems somewhat implausible, especially since, for blacks, 56% of men and only 35% of women reported dating a white person. (Steve Sailer, in his article Is Love Colorblind? reports that the 1992 Sex in America study which polled 3,432 people, found that white women were 10 times more likely than white men to report that their most recent sexual partner was black. I haven’t seen the study myself.) The numbers of people who report having dated inter-racially is fairly high, overall 48% of American’s (45% of whites; 52% of blacks; 69% of hispanics)

Dated a Non-Hispanic white Dated a black Dated a Hispanic Dated an Asian





All non-Hispanic whites





White men





White women





All blacks





Black men





Black women





All Hispanics





Hispanic men





Hispanic women






The following is an analysis of the 2005 Natality Detail File, which provides information on the degree to which children are being born into mixed-families.

Of the children born to non-Hispanic White women, the fathers were:

89.23% Non-Hispanic White
5.46% Hispanic
3.18% Non-Hispanic Black
2.13% Non-Hispanic Other Races

Of the children born to non-Hispanic White men, the mothers were:

92.76% Non-Hispanic White
4.12% Hispanic
0.96% Non-Hispanic Black
2.17% Non-Hispanic Other Races


Global data:

In the Netherlands, intermarriage rates are quite similar among Surinamese and Antillean men and women. 22% of Surinamese men marry native Dutch, while 26% of women marry native Dutch. Among the Antillean immigrants, 48% of men marry native Dutch, compared to 40% of women.  (source)

In Brazil, data collected on marriage between whites, mestizos, and blacks can be seen in these tables (numbers are %s of marriages):

Men Women Total
White Brown Black
White 84.2 14.4 1.4 100%
Brown 25.4 72.2 2.3 100%
Black 19.7 25.0 55.4 100%
Women Men Total
White Brown Black
White 82.2 15.8 2.0 100%
Brown 22.8 73.8 4.1 100%
Black 16.9 16.9 66.2 100%

As you can see, it is less common for black women to marry brown or white people as compared to black men (combined total of 44.7% for black men, and 33.8% for black women). Of whites, 15.8% percent of white men marry black or brown women vs. 17.8% of white women (or 1.4% vs 2.0% for blacks only). Among both whites and browns more women marry out, but among blacks, more men marry out. Among browns, also, more women marry blacks than do men (4.1% vs 2.3%), and more men marry whites than do women (25.4% vs 22.8%).

In Australia, like the U.S., there is a trend for North Asian women to marry outside their race at a higher rate than men, whereas the opposite was the case for immigrants from, for example, Lebanon. (source)

The U.K. shows the same gender asymmetries in interracial marriages as the U.S., as can be seen in the below chart – it is interesting, though, that the asymmetries are smaller in the UK.

In Canada, we find the same pattern. From a 2006 Statistics Canada report: “In 2006, there were more than twice as many Arab or West Asian married or partnered men who were paired outside their group (19%) as there were women (9%). Similarly, three in ten Black men in couples were in mixed unions as were two out of ten Black women. Filipino, Korean, Southeast Asian, Japanese, Chinese or Latin American women in couples accounted for a higher proportion of spouses or partners in mixed unions than did men from these visible minority groups. There were more than three times as many married or partnered Filipino women in mixed unions (28%) as there were Filipino men (9%). For Japanese, nearly two-thirds of Japanese women in couples were in mixed unions while this was the case for over one-half (52%) of men from this visible minority group.”

It’s interesting to note that, like the UK, the discrepancies are still obvious, but not as large as in the US.

In Sweden, if we look at the global sources of marriage migrants (those who migrate from elsewhere in the world and marry a Swedish spouse), compared to immigration to Sweden in general, we see different patterns between the genders:

To summarize some of the international gender discrepancies among asians and blacks in marrying into native European populations:

Country Bias toward asian women (asian women marrying whites / asian men marrying whites
Canada 1.6
U.S. 2.64
UK* 2.45
Sweden** 7.25
Australia*** 4.65
Average 3.718 (median 2.64)
*Chinese only
**includes south asia
***foreign born, only Japanese & Koreans
Country Bias toward black men (black men marrying whites / black women marrying whites
Canada 1.5
U.S. 2.32
UK 1.32
Sweden 1.8
Netherlands* 1.2
Brazil 1.17
Average 1.55 (median 1.41)
* from the Dutch Antilles, which is 85% mixed black. Immigrants from Surinam not included because it is only 40% mixed black

Take into account that these numbers are based on studies that are not all using the same methods, I haven’t made any attempt to correct for gender bias in immigration, etc.

I suspect some of the very high biases have to do with smaller numbers and unusual migration patterns. But there is certainly a pattern here.

About these ads

17 thoughts on “Interracial relationships – who is attracted to who?

  1. Pingback: Racial preferences in online dating | unsafe harbour

  2. Pingback: Status and Interracial Marriages | unsafe harbour

  3. Pingback: update on world-wide patterns of mixed marriages | unsafe harbour

  4. Pingback: Asians Increasingly Marrying Other Asians | Happolati's Miscellany

  5. Thanks a lot for the information sir it really helped me out.

    However, could you explain to me the data in the Columbia study:

    You said that white and Asian women rated black men as less attractive. I saw the numbers and I was wondering if white and Asian women rated Asian men as more attractive than black men. Also, it appears that Hispanic women also rated Asian men as more attractive than black men. So could you answer my question please? Did white, Hispanic, and Asian women rate Asian men as more attractive than black men?

  6. Update:Of the 275,500 new interracial or interethnic marriages in 2010, white/Hispanic couples accounted for more than 43%, white/Asian couples were 14%, white/black couples were 12% and whites/other mixed made up 30.4%.
    Intermarriage rates among white and Hispanic newlyweds do not vary by gender. Also the differences were not significant among Hispanic native and foreign-born newlyweds who married non Hispanics.

  7. Is this for real?

    Why don`t you guys come to Brazil (actually, Brasil), and have a good time? The best time to come is between Aug/Dez, before Xmas (Natal e Ano Novo) and Mar/Jun (before the “winter break” -> which in some parts of Brasil, specially in the northeast, you nonetheless may never face any temperatures below 20 C/68 F).

    Over here, it doesn` t matter much whether you`re black, white, pink, or CMYK, unless the peer you `re looking forward belongs to the very upper class (they would reject you anyway, no matter how “ideal” you look like, unless you have proved an 8-digit net-worth), you (I mean, everyone, from every existing ethnic group), will be fine;

    Other than that, your attitude (“Pegada” and “Responsa”) is what counts.

    p.s. if you`re afraid of the violence, and still want to come over, just stick to the “Backpacker Trail”, and you’ll be safe, but distant; However, if give it a try and learn some basic Br Portuguese beforehand, or even better, are able to making friends to any Brazilian you happen to meet on the Facebook, or any other social network; Then, you’ll get my meaning;


  8. Obviously most men are most attracted to white women. You’ll find this if you go to any porn site and just look at all the featured videos. About 95% of them feature white women. Asian women and black women are always some sort of fetish thing. I’m not saying whether it’s good or bad, but if most men loved Asian women more than white women, we’d be seeing that play out in that arena, as well as in the whole world of female actresses, etc. People want to look at who they’re most attracted to. And it tends, at least in a North American and European context, to be whites.

    No comment on Asia, Africa, or anywhere else. I have no idea what it’s like there and therefore don’t want to make any assumptions.

  9. Pingback: Women: Describe the most attractive male stranger you have ever seen? - clothes, shoes, hair care, skin care, makeup, designers... - Page 6 - City-Data Forum

  10. It’s good to know that 7 out of 10 asians in north america married within their own racial group. And I’m not surprised of lower interracial marriage rate among south koreans .. interracial marriage is still very rare in south korea.

  11. Why do these searches always and only focus on white race and white countries?
    why not countries like israel, china, Korea etc?

  12. Given Hispanics and Asians are recent immigrants into the US (and other Western countries), there should be an analysis done on the interracial relationships of 1st versus 2nd generation Hispanics and Asians.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s