Interracial Dating – It’s tough to be Asian

Earlier this month there was a study published written by Columbia Business School professor Ray Fisman on theories of dating or choice-making based on data collected from speed-dating experiments in Chicago. Part of the study looked at interracial dating preferences. As you may know I have a major interest in this area. Looking through some articles and the Fisman study there are upsides and downsides.

I guess the good news for some would be that people generally choose to marry within their own race. It is perceived widely in Asian American culture that Asian women increasingly tend to outmarry. I think this study does offer some practical and logical insight. For starters, the study notes that Asian women exhibit a strong same race preference than their male counterparts. There is no evidence of the stereotype of a White male preference. But throw in that attractiveness factor and Asian men fall last.

“For male partners, our main finding is that Asians generally receive lower ratings than men of other races. In fact, when we run the regressions separately for each race, we find that even Asian women find white, black, and Hispanic men to be more attractive than Asian men. “

Ouch. That hurts a bit.

If the controlling factor is preference based on attractiveness…then Asian men are the least desirable. If you’re a good looking Asian dude. . . you’re to be envied.

However, the bias runs both ways…
female Asian partners are consistently rated as less attractive, though we also find that black females receive significantly lower ratings relative to whites. As above, we find that when these regressions are run separately for each race, even Asian men find white, black, and Hispanic women to be more attractive than Asian women.

Asians received low marks on attractiveness from all races including Asians themselves.
For a long time many Asian men and bloggers have wondered why it appears that more Asian women out-marry. Is it really true? Does this study prove that there is a preference or none at all?

One conclusion about preference that the study demonstrates is simply this, who you spend the most time with you end up choosing. Our choices are really more rational than anything. Lawyers with lawyers. Doctors with doctors. These are the people you meet on a daily basis and spend the most time around. Perhaps the factors are more geographic/social integration rather than specific racial preferences. What choices do you have? This tendency goes for race and religion as well. The bloggers at Poplicks summarizes these findings well.

The full study can be downloaded here in pdf form.
Other research by OSU’s Zhenchao Qian [pdf download].
Slate.com Article by Ray Fisman, An Economist Goes to the Bar, and solves the mysteries of dating

This reminds me of a story from pioneering pastor David Gibbons of NewSong who’s a Korean-White mix. He attended Bob Jones University south of the Mason-Dixon line at a time where he was one of a handful of Asian faces. He had to indicate what race he would date and so Dave thought his chances were higher if he would check off White. This was a very practical and logical decision not because he had a preference for White women. BJU didn’t look too favorably upon this but how could Gibbons decide? If you’ve seen David Gibbons in person, he don’t look very mixed at all. He looks very Korean.

Sorry Dave if I butchered your story. I love you man.
The school only lifted its ban on interracial dating in 2000.
So is it tough to be Asian? or not?


10 Responses to “Interracial Dating – It’s tough to be Asian”

  1. 1 Joseon
    November 30, 2007 at 9:27 am

    2nd gen. Asian-American women do out-marry at higher rates, but I was surprised to read the out-marriage rates for 2nd. gen. AA men in this study:


  2. 2 L T
    November 30, 2007 at 11:00 am

    Thanks Joseon for dropping in and leaving that link. I had just come across it actually and will post on it next but I agree that 2nd gen AA out-marriages are surprisingly on the rise. Again perceptions…Though working with high school students I see a certain confidence in young men coupling with other races than I remember for myself at that time of my life.

  3. 3 Jas
    December 5, 2007 at 10:41 am

    Ha! Well, I dont know about anyone else, but I love Asian guys… he he he… 😉

  4. 4 Dave
    December 5, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    I would imagine that the speed-dating crowd has a very different perception on dating (and perhaps race) than the overall population, so I would be very careful about generalizing to the whole population (or even the Asians out there)… but that’s just the statistician in me speaking. =P

  5. 5 Kane
    December 5, 2007 at 11:37 pm


    This reminds me of a cartoon from a Stony Brook U Asian magazine not that long ago where the Asian guy gets major props like “You Da Man!” by other Asian guys when he is seen dating a white girl. It’s as if he has climbed Mt Everest or something like that.

    Anecdotally I see more AA guys in with non-Asian women these days, though the other way is still more common.

    The real question is how this affects us as Christians and church leaders because there is no Biblical prohibition on racial intermarriage notwithstanding BJU’s old teaching.

  6. 6 L T
    December 6, 2007 at 1:21 am

    Jas. I love you. Period. But then again I think Non-Asian women are quite wonderful.

  7. 7 L T
    December 6, 2007 at 1:26 am

    Thanks Kane for the comment. While we may believe there is no biblical prohibition as does BJU now it is still perceived by many good-hearted Christians south of the line that believe it’s God’s will. I wonder if it’s what they really believe or are they just using God to back them up.

  8. 8 Kane
    December 6, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    I wouldn’t know that much about good-hearted Christians south of the line but I know of good-hearted Asian Christians north of the line who in practice frown on interracial marriage or even marrying anyone who isn’t Chinese/Korean/Taiwanese, etc. I do NOT think that all Asian Christians think this way, but some definitely do…

  9. December 12, 2007 at 1:31 am

    Dear Pastor,

    Warm Greetings from Singapore!

    Certainly not tough to be Asian when you are in Asia 🙂

    Really enjoy reading your musings & perspectives

    In Him

    Yaw Shin Leong

  10. July 24, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Love the post, we need more blogs like this.

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[american born chinese pastor]
seeks to be that third place for those who are american born chinese [abc] in ministry.
here we may explore issues unique to the chinese church and doing ministry in that context
expand the intersection of asian american culture and christian faith
or simply expose what goes on in the mind of this abcpastor

this may be a bit ambitious or even naiive but i do hope that through the posts we can bring together different faith communities, passions for the advancement of the Gospel and the equipping of the body of Christ.

if you are an abc pastor or have any suggestions or would like to contribute to make this space evolve, just comment.

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