Mate Racism

The latest Time:

My Race-Based Valentine. Why online dating is the last refute of overt racial preferences.

This Valentine’s Day … relatively few women on mainstream dating sites will bother to respond to overtures from men of Asian descent. Likewise, black women will be disproportionately snubbed by men of all races. …  Chemistry.com requires users to identify their ethnicity; like eHarmony, it considers members’ racial preferences when suggesting matches. Match.com lets users filter their searches by race. The site’s profiles include space to indicate interest (or lack thereof) in various racial and ethnic groups. …

Among the women, 73% stated a [racial] preference. Of these, 64% selected whites only, while fewer than 10% included East Indians, Middle Easterners, Asians or blacks. … 59% of [men] stated a racial preference. Of these, nearly half selected Asians, but fewer than 7% did for black women. … In October, [OkCupid.com], 80% of whose members choose to input their race, studied the messaging patterns of more than a million users and concluded on its official blog that “racism is alive and well.” …

But do racial preferences amount to racism? Or is overlooking an entire ethnicity as innocuous as filtering out redheads or people under a certain height? “Just because you take race into consideration in your dating preferences and are aware of race doesn’t make you racist,” says Dr. Nicole Coleman, a psychology professor at the University of Houston. Minorities who prefer to date within their own race or ethnicity — and who look for potential mates on niche sites like BlackPeopleMeet.com and Amor.com — would probably agree with her.

So dating is our last refuge of overt racism because … preferring people based on race isn’t racism if its for dating, especially if minorities do it?!

Of course its racism, if anything is.  But is it good racism?  The obvious reason to allow mate racism is that people better enjoy mating when they better like their mates, and people think they care about the race of their mates.  But this same reason suggests allowing racism by firms, schools, and clubs.  Firms are full of people, including employees, customers, suppliers, and investors, any of which might care about the race of folks they must deal, mingle, associate, etc. with.  At schools, the teachers, students, and ultimate employers of those students may also care about race.

Yes people may be mistaken about how much they care about the race of their associates, and perhaps this justifies government policies forbidding overt racism at firms, schools, or clubs.  But why doesn’t this apply just as well to mating?  Sure it is impossible to legislate away all racism in dating, but the same is true for hiring etc.  Why don’t we at least forbid overt mating racism, such as race-based searches?  We could even collect stats on the race of folks that people contact at dating sites, just as we check now on rates rates in hiring at firms, etc.

One explanation is that we naively think that imposing rules on firms only hurts those abstract entities, not the people associated with them.  Or we think such rules only hurt investors and managers, who we don’t care about.   Perhaps we only dislike racism that changes incomes, not happiness — yet mates often change income a lot.  Another explanation is that we only don’t care about racism in the “personal” sphere, though this just changes the question to what exactly is “personal” and why do we care differently about such things.  What do you think?

Added: The UN definition supports the “personal” theory:

“Racial discrimination” shall mean any … preference based on race … which has the … effect of … impairing the … enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of … fundamental freedoms in … any … field of public life.

Added 25Feb: A Post article encouraging black women to date white men.

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  • http://herebetigers.wordpress.com PeterW

    Another possibility is that everyone is dating-racist, while only a few people are hiring-racist, if only because only a few people are in charge of hiring decisions. People, especially non-hirers, can carp about hiring-racism to lower the relative status of particular people or groups they don’t like. By contrast, nobody is unusually devoid of dating-racism, so three’s no critical mass of status-seeking castigators.

  • http://oliverbeatson.com/ Oliver Beatson

    I don’t race-preference as racism any more than I see sexual orientation as sexism, or the preference of attractive people over unattractive people as discrimination. Of course it is discrimination, but it’s unhelpful to call it such because the word turns on a huge red light in most people’s minds that discrimination is always bad. As though forcing a white supremacist to trawl through potential partners whom the racist would never pick is going to make things any better. Given the typical economically educated’s stance on discrimination laws, it seems strange for me that an economist would need to ask this question, so I suspect it’s rhetorical and that this is all a post about signalling.

  • http://lyingeyes.blogspot.com ziel

    Anti-discrimination laws are obviously irrational – they occupy a special niche in law, and have a very specific pedigree growing out of the unusual racial dynamics of the American South – slavery and Jim Crow laws, in particular.

    Imagine a situation where there are no anti-discrimination laws and banks will have nothing to do with Koreans – they won’t hire them, lend to them, accept their deposits. What would happen? Koreans would establish their own bank to serve other Koreans. This bank would be very profitable, of course, because they could hire Koreans cheap, lend to them at a premium, and pay discounted interest rates on deposits. They would even begin poaching non-Korean customers from other banks.

    Eventually the discrimination would break down as non-Korean banks noticed the success of the Korean bank. This did not happen – and has not happened to this day to any material extent – with African-Americans. But due to the rank injustice of Jim Crow laws and the harshness of race relations in the south, the rest of the country agreed to implement anti-discrimination laws to combat what was perceived as systemic discrimination throughout society.

    While initially intended to target anti-black discrimination, such “protection” was extended to other groups as well*, and the idea of not being discriminated against has been perceived as a natural right ever since. But in reality, it is only enforced against commercial and other public interests – even housing hits too close to home – though illegal, the reality of “white flight” is too painful to risk by enforcing the law strictly. Enforcing anti-discrimination against mating behavior is way beyond the pale, and would surely result in a backlash.

    * Sex discrimination is a special case – because so many women were homemakers a generation ago, women banding together commercially to fight discrimination wasn’t so feasible. Still, even today, single women, as a whole, are probably not a particularly profitable group to get involved with commercially. Plus a lot of anti-woman discrimination is rational – women do leave the work force to raise families much more frequently than men, and thus are riskier than men when it comes to executive development, for example. A woman-only bank, then, would face a daunting task being profitably run.

    • http://www.rationalmechanisms.com Richard Silliker

      Anti-discrimination laws are obviously irrational

      BINGO!!!

    • Doug S.

      The problem is that the non-Koreans will go put on white hoods and burn crosses on the lawns of the Korean bankers until they close down their bank. :(

      • Jayson Virissimo

        Shouldn’t property and tort law take care of that, not ad hoc anti-discrimination legislation?

  • http://econtricks.blogspot.com Greg

    Even if dating sites did not allow race-based searches, couldn’t users do de facto race selection, based on the photos? Or should photos not be allowed?

    Would you get in trouble if you e-mailed eight white girls in a row? Or would the site not let you continue until you e-mailed a black girl?

  • Bill

    Actually, you could look at this a different way.

    Given the scarcity of cross race dating outside of the dating services, if a person signalled indifference to race while indicating their own race, there would probably be more hits by cross race seeking prospective partners than would be in the general population. In other words, someone would be flooded, with having to select out those who were cross race seeking from those who were truly indifferent on both sides of the match.

    Think of this from the perspective of game theory with two pools of participants where one pool may have some members in it who are cross race seeking and the other pool contains cross race seeking, indifferents, and cross race repellents. The indifferents get hit upon more than they wish by the cross race seeking, when in fact they would prefer an indifferent. But, by signalling indifferent, they get hit up by cross race seeking.

  • Someone from the other side

    If they are *indifferent*, then by definition they cannot get too much of either inquiries or am I missing something?

    I think it’s mostly about looks, BTW.

    • Bill

      If you are responding to my comment above, by indifferent I meant a person who is indifferent, but not indifferent to race seeking persons.

      In other words, perhaps the indifferent person would match outside of a matching service to find other indifferents, rather than being targeted by race seekers if that person signalled indifference.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    fwiw, the original social science on this suggest that women are much more race-conscious than men.

  • http://manwhoisthursday@yahoo.ca Thursday

    We allow this kind of racism because our current ideology views regulation of sex as anathema, with very limited exceptions.

    Sex lib trumps anti-racism.

    • oldoddjobs

      Interesting. Reminds me of “body exceptionalism”.

  • Jim Babcock

    Two moral rules are in conflict here. The first is that we believe people have the right to not be discriminated against based on race. The second is that we believe people have the right to veto any sexual partner or class of partners, for any reason or no reason. The latter right is stronger, and any overt action to prevent racial discrimination would infringe on it, so there’s not much we can do about mate racism.

  • Pingback: Mate Racism « Daniel Joseph Smith

  • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

    Peter, plausible; razib, believable.

    Thursday & Jim, where did this sex lib principle come from, and why do we feel no need to justify it?

    • http://manwhoisthursday.blogspot.com Thursday

      Here’s my theory.

      I remember when Kerry Howley and Will Wilkinson were all up in arms about prostitution, and they were arguing that there wasn’t anything special about selling one’s sex organs. I remember thinking, well OK, if our sex organs are just another commodity, and seeing how the market for sex organs is pretty much a zero sum game and a more egalitarian distribution would likely increase overall happiness, then it would seem that the market for sex organs would a prime candidate for government (or at least strong social) regulation. But somehow I just can’t see that as being Howley and Wilkinson’s point.

      Then I thought about how under Jon Haidt’s 5 factor morality theory, one of the factors is purity/sanctity/sacredness. How you treat the human body is extremely important. The body, and particularly sex organs, are viewed as sacred. Now, for the religious, the sex organs are sacred to God. But for most of the secular, sex organs are still sacred, only now they are sacred to the individual. In other words, you can do with your sex organs as you wish, but they are so sacred that no one else should have the slightest control over what you do with them. And sacredness is almost always a trump card, even among liberals (left or right). Racism on the other hand merely concerns Haidt’s harm and fairness factors.

      Now I can’t see how ascribing value to sacredness makes sense unless you have some sort of mystical ethical theory, but I digress. I don’t have any more of a detailed explanation than that, but I think you will find that the psychological intuitions that are at the root of this are closely related to the psychological intuitions that lead some people to become axiomatic libertarians, only axiomatic libertarians extend the sacred body out to inanimate things, things that are proper to them.

      • http://manwhoisthursday.blogspot.com Thursday

        One of the things that makes liberals (right or left) particularly nasty and intolerant when they smuggle in moral arguments based on the purity, authority or ingroup factors is that they don’t realize they are doing it.

        Bryan Caplan describes something like the same dynamic among Randians here.

  • Psychohistorian

    The costs and benefits are vastly and obviously different, particularly from the point of view of the person wronged. I’m a white man; I would not want to date someone who does not want to date white men, because the relationship would not be functional. I would therefore be harmed if you found a way to compel women to date me who did not actually want to date me.

    However, if you compel someone to employ me, I get pretty much all of the benefits out of it, i.e. a paycheck. Given that my racist employer will not be spending most of their life with me, and I am not seeking an emotionally fulfilling relationship with them, their preference for people of different races does not affect me much.

    That’s just the most obvious economic point that doesn’t worry about enforcement. The fact that enforcement is impossible, and the fact that we do not care about utility gained or lost via racial discrimination (i.e. society does not sympathize with the Klansmen who’s forced to hire black people), are two other obvious, huge problems with this idea. There are many more.

    • rapscalion

      “if you compel someone to employ me, I get pretty much all of the benefits out of it, i.e. a paycheck”

      But you can be discriminated against after being hired, too. Many lawsuits are because of this. Both marriage and employment are long-term relationships.

      “The fact that enforcement is impossible…”

      Not really. We could enforce it mostly through financial penalties just like with most anti-discrimination laws. We could offer tax penalties/subsidies to interracial couples and allow class-action lawsuits against groups of people and/or their local governments if they show statistically significant disparities in their mating behavior.

  • David C

    I thought the OKCupid blog post was much more informative than the Time article. In fact, looking through it, that blog might be the best resource of dating statistics on the web.

    http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/2009/10/05/your-race-affects-whether-people-write-you-back/

  • http://herebetigers.wordpress.com PeterW

    Another: we pretty much disregard ethical considerations when it comes to mating. While we mouth pretty lies in our everyday lives, we turn ruthlessly Darwinian when it comes to mate selection – and we’re okay with that.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      Sounds believable, but would be nice to have more concrete evidence of this.

      • http://herebetigers.wordpress.com PeterW

        Well, we expect people to say that they won’t date ugly or stupid people. But we’d definitely distance ourselves from someone who refuses to be friends with, or work in the same office as, such people.

      • oldoddjobs

        Who is we? Oh, you mean you.

      • http://meteuphoric.wordpress.com Katja Grace

        We hardly consider taking any considerations into account when choosing a partner except our own selfish mate-preferences – it is rare for anyone to suggest we make more ethical choices by partnering those who live near us to cut greenhouse emissions, or rich people so we can donate their incomes to charity, or socially beneficial people to encourage that. These things would make more of a difference than plenty of personal actions people are encouraged to take on these issues, but they aren’t in the spirit of romance. It does occur to people to choose partners for the benefit of families or for their non-mating related preferences (such as $), but it’s looked down on.

  • Daublin

    Robin, making the situation even more queer is that there is a lot of support for anti-discrimination law about roommates. So nobody blinks an eye when people have open preferences about who they date, but it’s illegal to advertise a racial preference about who you want to be your roommate.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      Fascinating! So are roommates “public”, not “persona”?!

    • Joe

      I’ve never used these sites. Do they put the user’s racial preference on their profile so that anyone can see it? Or do hidden algorithms match people up based on their preferences, but the preferences are not public? If the latter is the case, I don’t think roommate adverts vs dating adverts can be compared, because the roommate advert is stating quite openly the preference, while the dating advert hides the racial preference.

  • http://www.rationalmechanisms.com Richard Silliker

    >In October, [OkCupid.com], 80% of whose members choose to input their race, studied the messaging patterns of more than a million users and concluded on its official blog that “racism is alive and well.”

    In addition, with that statement it appears stupidity is also alive and well.

  • Jerry Mitchell

    There are 3 terms that get conflated all the time. Racism, Bias, and Prejudice.

    Racism, up until fairly recent times, meant the belief that one race was genetically superior. That said, one might even more closely try to define superior “at what”? Maybe blacks would be better at sprinting on average then other races, but stating so by any race, would hardly qualify as racism for or against them. One might by in a high crime area that was predominately black, and tend to lock one’s car more often then in safer neighborhoods, but still believe that the local people’s plight was environmental and that genetically, everyone was pretty much the same. Thats prejudice…to pre-judge.
    Now…whats appropriate bias and prejudice is subject for debate, but lets quit calling something like date preference – racism. It just dilutes the real meaning of the word. Sure the people picking could believe in the inherent superiority of one race or the other, but I would guess generally most dont, and simply prefer to pick people they find more like themselves.

    • oldoddjobs

      There are commenters here who find the idea that “birds of a feather flock together” to be racist. What’s strange is that the racism doesn’t seem to be located anywhere e.g inside someone’s head. The racism just IS, it floats out there objectively in the cosmos and descends sometimes like a virus.

      The incoherence of their position is revealed when it’s applied to non-whites. If you tell them that Asian-Americans prefer to mate with other Asian-Americans it becomes very difficult for them to cry “racist”. See, what they meant the whole time was “whites need to show sensitivity to our pets i.e people who have an ethnicity.”

  • Vladimir

    The Strategy of Conflict had a very brief comment on racism and laws to prevent it, this is roughly what I recall:
    Assume that at a large corporation most of the employees are not racist, and all else being equal would like the demographics of the employees to reflect that of the general population. However, a few of the employees are racist and might act out. Some minority employees might quit earlier than they would otherwise, to get away from racists in the workplace. Other employees might be less likely hire minorities in order to not cause friction with the racists. Fewer minority employees at any given time might feed back in to fewer minority hires, if potential recruits think that they’re less likely to be hired by this corporation or don’t hear about the company through family members. So even though most of the employees don’t want racism, discrimination might become pervasive anyway, unless some authority with the power to coordinate everyone involved forces the corporation to commit to racial diversity.

    With (monogamous) dating, each party evaluates the other. There are no third parties involved in the relationship, so there’s no coordination problem as described above. The obvious reply is that if single people only see couples of the same race then they’ll assume they can only have a successful relationship with a mate of the same race. But that extra step between different relationships seems important, not merely a detail.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      Similarly, if people care about the race of the spouses of their associates, then people may choose spouses in part to match the preferences of their associates. So, as with a firm, a few folks in your social network with racial preferences could influence the choices of many others who don’t much care.

    • http://lyingeyes.blogspot.com ziel

      The Strategy of Conflict is of course nonsense. The minorities would just go off and form their own firm and steal business away from their ex-firm. The ex-firm, and others like it, will soon see the folly of allowing a bigoted minority to hold sway over their hiring decisions and fire the bigots and retain the minorities. “Some authority with the power to coordinate everyone” would be unnecessary. That kind of thing does happen today with corporations enforcing strict “diversity” and anti-harassment policies, but it’s not clear whether those policies are in spite of or because of anti-discrimination law.

      The only reason we need “some authority with the power to coordinate everyone” is that the minorities in question don’t have the requisite human capital to actually go out and form their own competing firms. I’m afraid that is precisely the situation that has led to anti-discrimination laws.

      • http://meteuphoric.wordpress.com/ Katja Grace

        Presumably the minority firm would have to avoid employing those who may be racists so as to avoid the problem, so it would end up similar, perhaps on a different scale.

      • http://lyingeyes.blogspot.com ziel

        Katja – “Presumably the minority firm would have to avoid employing those who may be racists so as to avoid the problem, so it would end up similar, perhaps on a different scale.”

        But racists wouldn’t work for the minority firm, and if they did, they’d be fired soon enough. Or are you saying the racists could then go on and form their own firm, and perpetuate the racism? But that can’t be – Diversity is Strength!

        All kidding aside, something like this could be happening now. If you’ve got good entrepreneurial skills or are fortunate enough to work in a small firm, you don’t ever have to go to Diversity seminars or worry about EEOC audits.

      • http://www.vsspro.com Floccina

        Although I do agree to a large extent there does seem to be an optimal size for each type of business and this might make it difficult for a minority business to compete if the optimal size is very large.

        One the other hand, I new a black attorney who though a very liberal democrat in every other way, bemoaned the fact that desegregation destroyed many black owned business and that school desegregation made Blacks compete with whites. He pointed out that before desegregation there were many all black schools and each had a black valedictorian.

    • http://manwhoisthursday.blogspot.com Thursday

      A well thought out theory. However, I don’t think it explains the widespread social acceptability of dating racism. Most people wouldn’t be willing or able to calculate these sorts of things, so I doubt widespread social attitudes are the result of people reasoning this out. Gut level moral intuitions of the “sex is sacred” variety seem a more parsimonious explanation. My 2 cents anyway.

  • http://modeledbehavior.com Karl Smith

    My sense is that mating is treated as “unqualifiable” and perhaps noblely irrational. That is, it is not a virtue to select mates based on how qualified they are. Instead we should select them for lo e whixh is assumed to allude rational calculation.

    Now why is the case. My guess is that tradtional strats for rationalizing love have been failures. Once we have very good matching algorithms this will change and race preferences will not be socially acceptable

  • Bill

    This post is missing the difference between a dating site and dating behavior.

    In dating behavior, a person of an opposite race may get to know the other person, and decide, notwithstanding race, to start or continue the relationship. You get to know the person, and race may not matter.

    A website is different.

    Let’s look at the characteristics of persons who COULD respond to a signal that you are indifferent to race.

    Well, you could have some person who seeks out persons of another race just for the purpose of dating that other race. Now, if you are indifferent to race, if you post you are indifferent, you will attract the person who seeks out a different race. Your preference would be to find someone who is also indifferent, but if you signal indifference, you attact the indifferent AND the opposit race seeker. Therefore, it is safer to indicate preference than non-preference, even if you are indifferent, otherwise you will attact a person who is not indifferent, but rather a person who is very aligned toward judging people by race–an opposite race seeker.

  • http://lyingeyes.blogspot.com ziel

    Again, I have to disagree with the whole premise of this conversation – that the absence of anti-discrimination norms on dating sites is somehow aberrant. It is the existing anti-discrimination regime that is aberrant. No one tells anyone who they can hang out with, date, mate with or live near – even though the latter is technically illegal, it’s obviously lightly enforced outside of large developments. And it’s not enforced against small businesses, either. Basically, these laws apply to public institutions (where I believe such laws are right and proper) and large private employers and educational institutions.

    The real puzzler is how does anyone get off telling a private business who they should hire? That’s kind of bizarre, when you think about it, isn’t it? So why is it that we feel it’s ok to tell a large private employer who they can and cannot hire, while in pretty much all other aspects of non-governmental affairs we can associate with whomever we wish?

    • http://lyingeyes.blogspot.com ziel

      The perfect example is the music industry. In the early/mid 1950′s blacks were widely discriminated against. Radio stations were loathe to play black rock’n’rollers, to the absurd point that Pat Boone was recruited to sing Little Richard songs. But that didn’t last long. Within a decade, blacks had formed their own record companies and Motown was dominating the airwaves and the charts. The domination would have been more pronounced if not for 4 lads from across the pond. And of course the white-owned businesses stood up and took notice and embraced the African-American artists and customers. No anti-discrimination laws were needed – blacks themselves were able to break the back of the discrimination that prevailed. So the question remains – why do we feel we need anti-discrimination laws to tell large businesses who they can and cannot hire?

    • http://manwhoisthursday.blogspot.com Thursday

      When you say regime are you talking about a system of laws or social opprobrium. (It almost goes without saying that the former is based on the latter.)

      Openly saying you won’t be friends with or live next to a black person will expose you to some significant social opprobrium, as opposed to the pretty light treatment you’ll get for openly saying that you only want to date people of your own race.

      • http://lyingeyes.blogspot.com ziel

        I was thinking in terms of legal sanctions. You’re point about social opprobium is a good one – but I think that’s true in a limited social milieu – the more “refined” classes – but maybe not of the vast breadth of middle America. But I’m just speculating here. But do you really think in the kinds of social circles where it would be anathema to voice a disinclination to have black neighbors it would also be ok to voice an aversion to dating members of another race?

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    Thursday, regulation of sex does not actually seem an anathema. I think we just regulate sex differently than we used to. People used to marry quite young, that would now be considered child abuse and statutory rape. What’s now considered sexual harassment and date (or marital) rape was ignored in the past. The product of mating is children and we’ve got both child services and child support payment governing that. I’ve heard in Britain that as the marriage rate goes down they’re declaring more cohabitiers married under common law and then holding them responsible for alimony if they split up.

    Kataja, your theory seems wrong to me. People take into account what their family would think all the time. Historically, marriages were often arranged by the family. In fact, one reason I’ve heard from a few people is that women are more racially discriminatory than men for the same reason that they’re more religious: they are more conscientious and feel bound by what the opinion of their relatives/community. Women are also more interested in longer term relationships (such as marriage), where that would be a bigger factor. Strom Thurmond could get away with fathering a child with a black servant because he didn’t actually have to make the relationship public.

    I think I actually used some of these same analogies Robin & others used in an argument with my family on Christmas eve. My sister told me she was embarrassed to be related to me and wouldn’t speak to me again (a claim I was surprised to find that she adhered to for a couple weeks).

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      Good points about sex regs, but then the puzzle remains.

    • http://manwhoisthursday.blogspot.com Thursday

      Modern restrictions on sex basically boil down to: don’t do anything sexual with kiddies and don’t bring sex into public or professional spaces. As I said, very limited. Children are more sacred than sex and apparently we value lack of conflict in certain public and professional places more than sexual freedom too. But to grant this is to grant very little.

      As for the other points, it was never open season on women who went on dates and age of consent was less important when the sex was within the bounds of a lifelong commitment.

      • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler

        You appear to have omitted the prohibition of rape.

      • pdf23ds

        Age of consent is still less important in the US. Statutory rape laws don’t apply to the spouse of the younger person, and the minimum age of marriage (especially for females) is usually several years younger than the age of consent.

  • http://lyingeyes.blogspot.com ziel

    Perhaps you need to be more nuanced :)

  • Captain Oblivious

    The obvious reason to allow mate racism is that…

    Is there an alternative to “allowing” mate “racism” (if indeed that’s what it is – and I’m far from convinced!)? Are you seriously proposing that people should be forced to date/marry people they don’t find attractive?

    • oldoddjobs

      “[It will be] possible to reconstruct fundamentally the traditional
      family life…. The human race will not have ceased to crawl on all fours
      before God, kings and capital, in order later to submit humbly before
      the laws of heredity and sexual selection! … Man will make it his
      purpose … to create a higher social biological type, or, if you please, a
      superman.”

  • http://thecoldequations.blogspot.com coldequation

    Of course mate preferences are racist. They are allowed as an unprincipled exception to the general rule against racism because legislating against seeking the mates that most people naturally seek is too monstrous and totalitarian.

    You can’t find a neat, clean principle under which racism in mate selection is OK but racism in mate selection isn’t because there isn’t one. The “personal racism” thing doesn’t hold water. Personal racism may be legal, but it’s socially unacceptable. Mating preferences are still (sort of) socially acceptable. It’s still legal to tell racist jokes, but if the OK Cupid people did so on their blog they would be boycotted by their SWPL clientele. Law isn’t everything. And the UN document is 45 years old, dating to a different era when anti-racism meant dismantling Jim Crow and Apartheid, not legislating equality of outcomes.

    We seem to be moving in the direction of more anti-racism. In some circles, it’s now embarrassing to admit that you don’t want to date members of certain races. I wouldn’t be surprised to live to see the day when dating sites are monitored by some equality bureau.

    • Nanonymous

      And the UN document is 45 years old, dating to a different era

      Not just that – it also does not say what Robin pretends it says. Robin’s selective quoting changed the meaning. In fact, racial mating preferences do not fit UN definition of racism. Let’s try with a complete quote:

      “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life” (emphasis mine – N.)

      Quite obviously, my choice of partner is not anyone else’s human right and is not anyone else’s fundamental freedom. Only mine. Therefore, racial preferences in dating are not racism per UN definition! UN apart, there are two main definitions of racism: one that includes notions of superiority/oppression and one that only specifies discrimination (and under which “to discriminate” is treated loosely as “being able to differentiate”). Robin takes up the second definition. But that’s absurd – under this, any difference that involves races and human perception is racism. Simply being able to tell races apart (an act of discriminating between them!) becomes racism. But that is not a useful definition. It is only useful for labeling anyone who claims existence of biological races a racist.

      • scineram

        How is your choice of partner different from your choice of employee? Is there a fundamental freedom to be employed?

  • Linda Gottfredson’s Apprentice

    Dating racism demonstrates that race is a biological construct. Those doing the choosing have inherited genes that select for choosing sexual partners from the same extended family, thus reducing the probability of gene mixes that do not work well because they have not co-evolved for quite a while.

    It is no surprise that it is women who mostly engage in this behavior, because they tend the bear the larger cost associated with offspring, and thus need to be more careful.

    • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler

      Racism has a biological basis. It is mostly a kind of xenophobia.

      Avoiding having half-breed babies with alien spouses may well have been more of a problem back when there were Neanderthals and the like around.

    • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

      I agree that race is a biological (as well as social) construct. But I think you are wrong about “gene mixes”. On the contrary, that tends to produce hybrid vigor. In fact, the more frequent marriage with extended family is, the more genetically beneficial outbreeding becomes. You are correct that historically people have tended to marry extended family (even Charles Darwin and FDR did). Why did that happen? Why in many Muslim countries is there so much cousin marriage, leading to surprisingly high rates of birth defects? The reason is social, not due to genetic benefits. Hence the difference between cross-cousin and parallel-cousin marriages.

  • http://www.thethoughtfulape.blogspot.com Jay Thomas

    I am a caucasian male who has always had a very strong preference for Asian women and completely reject the idea that racial preferences in sex partners are racist.

    Racism involves antipathy toward others or the belief that they have inherently inferior characterstics.

    I don’t. I am fully aware of how arbitrary my preference is, I don’t think that the racial types I am attracted to are inherently superior to ones I am not attracted to, either morally, intellectual or physically,

    I also like women with small hands and feet but don’t think that my preference is intrisically superior to others preference.

    Human sexuality is intrinsically silly and the arbitrary things that flick our individual switches are just that

    • mock racist

      I don’t hate black/brown/yellow people, I just like white people better. We get along better and I feel more comfortable working with them. So I prefer to hire white people when I can.

      Sounds ugly, huh?

      • josh

        I can’t tell which part is ironic, because this simply doesn’t sound ugly to me at all.

      • Frankwhite

        5 white guys surround you, each one holding knives and they threaten to stab you if you don’t give them your wallet.

        5 asian guys surround you, after you’ve just been run over by a car, and they’re phoning an ambulance and making sure you’re ok.

        Which group would you feel least comfortable in?

      • scineram

        Not even slightly.

      • http://chiangmouta.blogspot.com/ Sobre

        ^These people have no clue^

        This is the kind of attitude that led to the Apartheid.

  • Aaron

    My suspicion has to do with tribe identification. If you’re trying to start a family alienating your tribe by pairing with an outsider, particularly an outsider from a weak tribe (ie black people) is a pretty risky strategy.

    It’s a bit of a just-so story but could be an explanation.

    The other thing to consider is that these articles aren’t actually firm evidence of racism or even race preference.

    There are cultural traits that are associated with people who self-identify with different races. A persons race isn’t a single switch, it’s also a statistical indicator of other characteristics that may or may not be present. If I see a girl list running as a hobby that tells me a lot more than just the fact that she likes to run. It tells me she probably eats healthier, enjoys sports, is more healthy and confident than others, etc. Thus given two otherwise identical profiles race gives additional statistical indications of other characteristics.

    I think this explains a lot of the okcupid data sample, I’m not as sure it can be stretched for the Chemistry.com sample though it’s still possible.

    If you find certain characteristics you don’t like in a mate are highly prevalent among a certain racial you may simply not bother looking in that group. However, it’s still possible you’d be perfectly happy with a member who didn’t share those characteristics.

    I don’t really buy that explanation but I think it’s a legitimate consideration.

  • Matt

    I think the reason we tolerate racism in dating is because we accept the fact that people care about looks. We think that racism is wrong in the workplace because we naively believe that the workplace is a place based purely on the merit of your character.

    If superficial qualifications are considered appropriate than racism is considered appropriate. No one would complain if you didn’t hire Denzel Washington to play George Washington. Some might actually be upset if you had Robert Downey Jr. play Malcom X.

    The dating sites might be better off to change “I prefer Asian women” to “I prefer Asian-looking women.” I doubt how many people are really checking off Asians because they think Asians are a superior race. They’re probably just thinking off Lucy Liu.

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  • mgravity

    Perhaps we allow mate based racism because we have good stories we use to convince ourselves that even though someone’s expressed a clear racial preference, he/she’s not actually a racist. So I can say I prefer white women over black woman, because dating a black woman would alienate some of my family, and while I disagree with their beliefs, they’re still my family and I love them. Or I want my wife and I to have a similar cultural heritage. Or I say I only want to date East Indian women because I just have a thing for them sexually.

    These stories work well enough for dating that we don’t need to confront our race preferences, but in hiring these stories sound really weak, and we don’t have any good substitutes. Since we can’t explain away our race preferences, we ban them entirely.

  • Lo Statuz

    Anyone offering an evolutionary explanation should also be prepared to explain why foreign accents are attractive.

  • tom

    Maybe everyone so far is wrong. Maybe we don’t care about racism unless it is used to victimize a historically oppressed group of men.

    Black men may be the least successful group economically, but they are not the least successful in terms of desirability to women. Asian men may be very successful economically, but they are not near the top of desired groups. Especially in the time where it seems to make the biggest difference: from 16-30. Of course, white women, Asian women, and black women may follow the scale much more closely (ie, white on top, black on bottom).

    So my conclusion my be that sexism (not caring about whether/why black women are disfavored) explains why we don’t care about racism in dating.

  • http://unpopularideasclub.blogspot.com/ vroman

    “Why don’t we at least forbid overt mating racism, such as race-based searches? We could even collect stats on the race of folks that people contact at dating sites, just as we check now on rates in hiring at firms, etc.”

    Holy shit. I’m shocked to see Robin Hanson of all people advocating politically correct Orwellianism.

    • CarefulReader

      He didn’t advocate it, he just asked a question and stated a possibility.

  • Unnamed

    This is consistent with the subjective experience theory that I offered for why we don’t have laws against employees choosing their job based on their employer’s ethnicity (only the reverse).

    You could consider my subjective experience theory to be one version of the “personal sphere” theory, which tries to explain what makes something personal and why it matters. Something is more personal if it’s more closely related to your life and identity, and if your preferences depend more on your individual tastes and less on objective, measurable features. The value of liberty (letting people choose their own path and do what they feel like) is more prominent in cases that are more “personal” in this sense, while the value of fairness (not letting people make choices based on irrelevant, inappropriate factors) is more prominent in more impersonal cases.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      Interesting.

  • TB

    “Or is overlooking an entire ethnicity as innocuous as filtering out redheads or people under a certain height?”

    Discrimination is generally acceptable socially when a particular attribute (like redheaded-ness) is discriminated both *for* and against in something near equal ratios, so that redheads don’t feel discriminated against as a whole.

    Discrimination is considered more unacceptable when the discrimination *against* is much greater than discrimination *for* as with people of color.

    Furthermore, in order for discrimination to be unacceptable, there must be a significant population complaining about it. For example, short people are overwhelmingly discriminated *against*, but there aren’t many of them to complain about it. Thus it remains socially acceptable to discriminate against them.

  • Phil

    Theory one:

    Maybe it’s just the extent of the sacrifice that has to be made. I think all would agree that the list below is in order of increasing reprehensibleness:

    1. Race preference in marriage
    2. Race preference in dating
    3. Race preference in close business partnership / roommate
    4. Race preference in not-so-close co-worker
    5. Race preference in business transaction (sales clerk you approach)
    5. Race preference in hiring someone you won’t be working with
    6. Race preference forced on others (as whites-only hiring laws)

    It might just be that while we’re willing to force others to hire in a color-blind way, because it doesn’t affect them all so very much, we’re unwilling to force them to date someone of the “wrong” race, because that’s too invasive.

    Theory two:

    It’s just a matter of social convention and signalling. It could be that only 10% of people would be willing to submit to racial dating quotas, but 80% would be willing to submit to racial hiring quotas (because only 20% care about race of their co-workers). Those 20% have to go along to get along.

    Theory three:

    We all understand that sexual preferences are unchangeable. Some like tall women (men), some short. Some are straight, some are gay. Some like redheads, some blond(e)s. And some like dark skin, some like light.

    So hiring preferences are for the “wrong” reasons: cultural preferences that can change with exposure. Dating preferences, on the other hand, are unlikely to change. So we tolerate the latter but not the former.

  • http://torontopm.wordpress.com Paul Hewitt

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with advertising for an individual of a particular racial (or religious) background. This practice may be “racist” and it is certainly “discriminatory”, but it is not “racial discrimination” according to the UN definition, because the discriminated-against party is not harmed.

    In fact, everyone benefits from this practice, because both parties reduce their own search costs. The “advertiser” reduces his or her search costs by restricting the number of potential mates to those that are more likely to be good matches. Potential mates that do not fit the racial criteria don’t waste their time applying to potential mates that are highly unlikely to be good matches. It’s a win-win.

    This type of market is not the same as, say, the labour market. There, an individual’s race (or sex) is not correlated with underlying “productivity”. Accordingly, it should make no difference to an employer, when offering a position or setting the wage. Everyone with the same credentials should have an equal chance of being hired under the same wage schedule. The fact that sex or race does make a difference to many employers (who may exclude some groups or offer different wage schedules) is why we have legislation to prevent such behaviour (or at least cut down on it). It reduces the harm inflicted on the discriminated-against parties.

    Back to the dating game. Preventing an individual from stating a racial preference will not bring “happiness” to any potential mate. Except for the wasted search time, it cannot take away happiness, either. Consequently, revealing search preferences should be allowed (but not required).

    If you think otherwise, you have to answer the same way for gender preferences. Would you require Johnny Weir to “advertise” for any mate (male or female)?

    Excellent topic, Robin!

    • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

      Is it actually the case that there are no correlations with productivity? I’d like to see some data.

      I agree that credentials should screen the effect, but I don’t know that the screen is 100%.

      • http://torontopm.wordpress.com Paul Hewitt

        I would suggest that you read Michael Spence’s paper “Job Market Signalling”, which will give you a very good understanding of signals, indices and how they interact. (Sorry, I don’t have the link handy).

        An index, on its own, is not correlated with productivity, given identical credentials (signals). i.e. a man and a woman with identical qualifications have equal productivity. Agreed?

        I’m not sure what you mean by “screen the effect”, but I assume you mean that the correlation between the signal and productivity is not perfect. Correct. In fact, the signal is correlated with a distribution of expected productivity.

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        The paper is behind a JSTOR paywall, but somebody uploaded it here. I glanced at it, and it appears to be a theoretical paper lacking the data to answer my empirical question.

        “Agreed?”
        I neither agree nor disagree, I have not seen data.

        I used the word “screen” as Hanson does here and Yudkowsky does here.

      • http://torontopm.wordpress.com Paul Hewitt

        TGGP, Michael Spence did get the Nobel Prize for this work. Are you dismissing it, because you don’t see the empirical evidence?

        You don’t agree that a man and a woman with identical credentials are equally productive (because you haven’t seen the data)? Good luck to you in the dating game!

        I wanted to know what “effect” was being screened, in your earlier comment. I’m unable to figure out what you meant by that comment. Please clarify. If you meant that the effects of discrimination are “screened out”, you will have very few supporters.

        Give Spence another try. It was a ground-breaking paper. Up until the time he wrote it, economic theories of discrimination were garbage. They were merely wage-differential theories. i.e. they “explained” discrimination, given that there was discrimination. No attempt was made to explain how it arose, continued to persist, and what would be effective in reducing it. Spence provided some of the answers.

        What empirical “proof” would you like to see?

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        I’m not dismissing Spence’s theoretical work, or the great amount of literature that resulted from it. I’ve still got it open on my computer and I intend to read it later (just not because I think it will answer my question). You made a statement, that there is no correlation of race/sex (which following Spence we can refer to as indices). Later in your comment you seemed to qualify that with reference to equal credentials. There are logically consistent hypothetical worlds in which credentials give no information and indices give complete information. To determine what kind of world we are in we must make use of empirical data. In the absence of data I remain agnostic on such claims and ask people who make them to provide it.

        I don’t date and my prospects in such a game have little bearing on the truth of your empirical statements. I was not denying your statement either, I was saying it needs to be supported before it can be accepted.

        In your statement that the signal is not perfectly correlated with productivity, you acknowledge that there is additional information to be had. The question is then whether indices (distinct from signals) can give additional information once you have a signal. If they give no additional information, the signals have completely screened the indices. In statistical terms, controlling for the signal removes all the correlation of the index with productivity. But it is logically possible that our existing signals (credentials) do not contribute all the correlation of indices with productivity, so the question must be settled empirically.

        I’m not so demanding as to only accept proof. I’m interested in evidence. In various industries there are measures for employee productivity, though they may only be proxies. We can start with that for the initial, unqualified version of the question. If the data also includes credentials, we can then examine the qualified statement.

      • http://torontopm.wordpress.com Paul Hewitt

        TGGP:
        You made a statement, that there is no correlation of race/sex (which following Spence we can refer to as indices). Later in your comment you seemed to qualify that with reference to equal credentials. There are logically consistent hypothetical worlds in which credentials give no information and indices give complete information.

        I didn’t qualify anything. The point was raised in connection with the issue of discrimination in the labour market. I thought it was pretty clear. If a man and a woman have equal credentials (the signal), their expected “productivities” ought to be the same. The index, gender, should provide no information about the individual’s expected productivity. When you finish Spence’s paper, you’ll realize that the employer uses indices to create multiple probability distributions of expected productivity for a given signal. That is, the index contributes nothing to productivity. Ask yourself, is the woman a better lawyer (more productive), because she’s a woman (index) or is it because she graduated at the top of her class at Harvard (signal)?

        What are these “hypothetical” worlds in which credentials mean nothing and indices mean everything? This makes no sense, and you will learn why once you finish Spence.

        As for “productivity”, it is extremely difficult to measure in most labour situations. Obviously, there is the interaction with other workers and capital. How much is attributable to the employee and how much to the other employees or the addition of physical capital? The relevant issue is how the employer perceives an employee’s “productivity” and whether this translates into unfair probability distributions for various groups.

        It is a fascinating topic. Keep at it!

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        Regarding qualification: there are two distinct statements, that the distribution of productivity is equal among different groups, or that for a given level of education those productivities are equal. If levels of education differ among groups (which is in fact the case), we should not expect both statements to be true. It is my impression that you believe in the qualified version of the statement.

        I have finished Spence’s paper, and it didn’t appear to me to say what you claim it says. He says various setups are possible with various equilibria. The paper is concerned about the incentive for various groups to pursue education, the same story I’ve heard from Tim Harford. Spence wrotes about self-confirming expectations on the part of employers which are never disconfirmed because there are no examples of hires from certain groups with a certain level of education. The world we live in is not like that, pick virtually any position and you will find a person from such a group with the modal level of education. It is precisely because of that fact that we should have empirical evidence of the sort I was asking about.

        When you say “contributes” are you referring to correlation rather than causality? In Spence’s paper education did not actually increase productivity, but merely had a cost negatively correlated with it. I think it is logically possible that women could be better lawyers than men with equivalent credentials, and this could be (like education in Spence’s model) for reasons which are merely correlated but not caused by gender. Again, I would have to see some data to determine whether or not that possibility is the case.

        In Spence’s terms, my hypothetical worlds of worthless credentials are ones in which the cost is constant, and has no relation to productivity. Spence in fact makes use of just such hypotheticals early on in the paper! Those are the equilibria in which everyone chooses y=y*.

        In Spence’s paper, employers are assumed to have a perfect measure of productivity ex post, so it is funny you object to the difficulty of measurement while citing his paper! As I said, I am willing to just look at proxies or imperfect measures.

      • http://torontopm.wordpress.com Paul Hewitt

        “Regarding qualification: there are two distinct statements, that the distribution of productivity is equal among different groups, or that for a given level of education those productivities are equal. If levels of education differ among groups (which is in fact the case), we should not expect both statements to be true. It is my impression that you believe in the qualified version of the statement.”

        I believe that for a given education level (signal) the productivities are equal for both groups. You are correct that education levels differ between the groups, but this may be caused by non-discriminatory influences. For example, women are more likely to suspend their careers to have children (at least there is a much higher likelihood of this compared with men). Consequently, the return on investment in education will be less for women than for men. Educational capital depreciates like any other and they will be absent from the labour market for some period of time. Given the lower ROI, they will invest less in education, for any given productivity level. It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is.

        “Spence wrotes about self-confirming expectations on the part of employers which are never disconfirmed because there are no examples of hires from certain groups with a certain level of education. The world we live in is not like that, pick virtually any position and you will find a person from such a group with the modal level of education. It is precisely because of that fact that we should have empirical evidence of the sort I was asking about.”

        It is not that long ago that you could find careers that were almost exclusively held by only one sex. Perhaps you are too young to remember, but when I was growing up, there were no male nurses in hospitals. There were few, if any, women employed as firemen, policemen, miners or even soldiers. Keep in mind that Spence wrote his paper in the late 70s. A lot has changed since then. His theory is sound. There have been significant socio-political adjustments that have contributed to reducing discrimination. But, still it is not perfect, obviously.

        Spence’s example where there are no examples to disconfirm an inaccurate probability distribution is but one implication of the theory. If the employer is biased, the link between the signal and productivity is likely to be distorted. So too will be the perception of productivity for the discriminated-against group.

        “In Spence’s paper education did not actually increase productivity, but merely had a cost negatively correlated with it. I think it is logically possible that women could be better lawyers than men with equivalent credentials, and this could be (like education in Spence’s model) for reasons which are merely correlated but not caused by gender.”

        It’s not that “mere” of an issue. It is the crucial component that makes a signal (education level) useful in predicting future productivity. Yes, some women are likely to be better than equivalently credentialed men in some professions, but it is not because they are women. Gender can never be “like education” in Spence’s model, because it lacks this crucial component. The higher productivity women will seek to differentiate themselves from the less productive ones by finding another signal (assuming the signaling activity passes a cost-benefit analysis). Of course, employers will seek to more accurately predict the future productivity and may consider the new signal in their decision model.

        “In Spence’s terms, my hypothetical worlds of worthless credentials are ones in which the cost is constant, and has no relation to productivity. Spence in fact makes use of just such hypotheticals early on in the paper! Those are the equilibria in which everyone chooses y=y*.”

        Such cost-constant, worthless credentials fail to function as signals! I don’t think he used this hypothetical situation to show that it exists. I think he used this to show the result is absurd, helping to prove that an effective signal must be exogenously costly and negatively correlated with the signaler’s productivity. Certainly, he was not saying these worthless “signals” would continue to function effectively.

        “In Spence’s paper, employers are assumed to have a perfect measure of productivity ex post, so it is funny you object to the difficulty of measurement while citing his paper! As I said, I am willing to just look at proxies or imperfect measures.”

        Spence’s paper was theoretical, clearly. It’s kind of like the perfect information assumption in neoclassical economic theory. It is used to simplify the model, not to model “reality”. I don’t object to the difficulty of measurement. Far from it. In fact, it was a critical point in my these (on discrimination… a long time ago).

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        “I believe that for a given education level (signal) the productivities are equal for both groups”
        Again, is there data for this I could see?

        You may have read in the NYT recently that college campuses are disproportionately female, the opposite group difference from what you are referring to. Admittedly, that may not apply to post-grad degrees and certain specific majors. Harford was discussing the lower amount of education among blacks, though (unlike many others) he acknowledges that it is concentrated among males and he has an interesting theory on why black females particularly invest (relatively) more in education.

        I asked a question in the present tense, I was not referring to “not that long ago”.

        If people start out with wrong beliefs they may retain them. I recall Spence’s paper only being concerned with priors that are self-confirming, I don’t remember anything in there where they start out with some (incorrect) priors and receive new information but settle on modified (yet still incorrect) beliefs.

        “Yes, some women are likely to be better than equivalently credentialed men in some professions, but it is not because they are women”
        That hypothetical is logically possible, is there evidence leading for you to conclude it is false?

        “Gender can never be “like education” in Spence’s model, because it lacks this crucial component.”
        In Spence’s model neither signals nor indices cause productivity. The difference between them is that agents can change/choose signals in response to incentives.

        I strongly disagree with you on why he chose such “absurd” hypotheticals. The focus of his paper was on inefficient equilibrium resulting from signals, and “worthless” signals are just the clearest example of it. My impression is that he is suggesting such inefficient equilibria exist, although the costs of signals likely have some correlation with productivity (though surprisingly he never suggests that education may increase productivity, making it socially worthless).

        I was trying to make the point earlier that Spence’s paper is theoretical. I asked a question about reality, theoretical models are not a sufficient response.

      • http://torontopm.wordpress.com Paul Hewitt

        “You may have read in the NYT recently that college campuses are disproportionately female, the opposite group difference from what you are referring to. “

        My comment made no reference to the male and female groups being identically sized groups! I was merely saying that the expected productivity of an individual from each group would be the same, given that each member of each group has the same signal. This should have been obvious from your reading of Spence!

        “I asked a question in the present tense, I was not referring to “not that long ago”.

        You wanted empirical evidence. So what if it was a few years ago? Using your logic, if I were to give you an example from today, tomorrow you would say, “give me something in the ‘present tense’? Where do you draw the line? My examples showed that occupational exclusion can (and did) occur. Just because we figured it out, and put policies in place to fix it (which worked), such that the exclusion no longer exists (at least to the extent it once did), doesn’t negate its existence! i.e. there is your proof.

        “If people start out with wrong beliefs they may retain them. I recall Spence’s paper only being concerned with priors that are self-confirming, I don’t remember anything in there where they start out with some (incorrect) priors and receive new information but settle on modified (yet still incorrect) beliefs.”

        You may be correct, based on this one particular paper by Spence. Surely, you have met a priorists in your lifetime. Such an individual would fit this scenario. Individuals with biases will behave in a like fashion. If the individual has a perceptual bias, based on his beliefs, it is more than likely that subsequent outcomes will be self-confirming. Whatever the individual perceives as reality, becomes reality, and thus, confirms the original belief. New information and self-confirming.

        “In Spence’s model neither signals nor indices cause productivity. The difference between them is that agents can change/choose signals in response to incentives.”

        Re-read Spence. The difference is not merely that they are free to choose signals. It is that the cost of acquiring the signal is negatively correlated with productivity (or any other unknown attribute)! A potential signal will not “work” unless this condition is met. If the cost of acquiring the signal is the same for any person, regardless of his or her true productivity, the signal would utterly fail to differentiate between them. It simply could not work. Since gender does not meet this criterion, it is not “like education”.

        Discrimination is a very subjective issue. “Evidence” is largely anecdotal. I gave you several examples of occupational exclusion, but you dismiss them, because they were from “not that long ago”. You are a tough person to please. I will admit that some of my thoughts and conclusions do not follow, directly, from this one paper by Spence. However, every one of my points can be derived from Spence’s work (all of it) and from others. Please don’t scan one paper and ask for empirical data to refute your weird hypotheticals.

        “I asked a question about reality, theoretical models are not a sufficient response.”

        How do you feel about neoclassical economic models?

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        I didn’t claim you said anything about equal sizes. I said that in fact credentials do differ by groups, you mentioned that women might have less education and I responded that they actually have more.

        Nowhere in Spence’s paper does it say that if each member of each group has the same credential the expected productivity is the same for both groups. If the cost of the credential is high enough, nobody will purchase it. Expected productivity can still differ.

        I wanted empirical evidence regarding productivity. You responded that in the past such evidence would not have existed, as in Spence’s model of self-confirming false beliefs. Today the evidence should exist, but I myself haven’t read it. My objection is not that past data is invalid, but that it is (according to you) sparse. If it were not sparse (which I expect to be the case in some occupations), I would be interested in reading that as well.

        I was not asking whether occupational exclusion can (or does) occur. My question was about productivity.

        I have read Spence and I am not going to re-read it. Spence gives as an example a credential whose cost has no correlation with productivity. Nowhere does he say this is some invalid example. The whole point of his paper seems to be that credentials may not “work”, but that employers may stick with invalid beliefs. Spence defines “signals” and “indices” based solely on whether agents can change them, whether they “work” has nothing to do with his definitions.

        I think that neoclassical economic models (such as Spence’s) certainly have their uses. But I asked an empirical question, which should be responded to with empirical evidence. It is YOU who bring up Spence’s paper and occupational discrimination, none of which answer my question about productivity!

      • http://torontopm.wordpress.com Paul Hewitt

        Okay, TGGP, you win. I don’t have the time to go through your unusual logic and make corrections. It appears that your understanding of Spence’s model is superficial, at best, which is preventing any reasonable debate of the issues. It is even more difficult when you attribute garbage thoughts to me, and then seek to “argue” with me.

        Perhaps it would be better if you dream up a few of these things on your own and argue with yourself.

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        I don’t win, I lose. I wanted to see the data on which you base your belief that productivity is equal across groups when credentials are equal. Throughout our series of miscommunications, no productivity data was ever revealed. As you acknowledged, Spence’s paper was theoretical. It, and any misunderstanding of it, is IRRELEVANT to my question.

  • http://www.edwardgaffney.com Edward Gaffney

    Historic large negative effects on black people etc of discrimination in labour market. No comparable historic large negative effects on black people etc of discrimination in marriage market. Pragmatism: Ban bads.

    • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

      There used to be laws against inter-racial marriage. Perhaps because it’s a de jure rule you wouldn’t file that under “discrimination” (though in a literal sense, it is), but I think it’s a relevant bit of history.

    • Microbiologist

      EG,
      It isn’t likely that history accounts for present differences between black and white performance. Take the example of overseas Chinese minorities, for example. They’ve faced confiscation and pogroms in multiple Southeast Asian countries. Before you can say Jack Robinson, they recover from each, and float back to the same old advantageous ratios of income compared to the lower IQ chthonic Thais, Malays, etc.

      The same is true of persecution of Jews in Europe. Jews, before the 20th C., had not yet become political bulwarks of an open immigration policy, or done anything to anger chthonic Europeans. They were persecuted primarily for the same reason as overseas Chinese: their success, and the envy of the chthonics around them. Until the pan-european genocide against them under Nazi rule, all these centuries of persecution had no impact on their superior occupational attainments, or other achievements. The biggest pogroms would cut into their population size in a given country significantly, yet even during the era of malthusian conditions their population would in each instance be booming again in no time. And Jewish immigrants to the US who arrived very impoverished compared to the US average, had grandchildren raking in the dough well above the US average, something that wasn’t the case for the grandchildren of poor Irish or Italians.

      Actually, the most dramatic example of all is probably Mao’s China. Talk about a national nightmare. About 20 to 80 million people died, many by direct state action, and more by starvation. Yet three or four years after he finally sods off, you see the economy just float right up to 10% growth, where it remains for the next 30 years! This amazing work was done by people who had just finished surviving many years of Mao’s terrifying rule. That’s just the way human nature is on average — rough and tough.

  • Leigh Mortensen

    Tempest, meet teapot.

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  • Jesse F

    Racism, as generally practiced, is the overweighing of essentially superficial physical characteristics in the determination of a person’s subjective overall “value”.

    Dating, as generally practiced, is the overweighing of essentially superficial physical characteristics in the determination of a person’s subjective overall “value”.

    I fail to see the conflict here.

  • IamDONEdiscussingTHISwhithYOUfarmers

    i read like the 10 first comments and all where basically saying hey it’s a preference not racism

    preference my ass
    it’s racist point blank
    and the thing is in the heads of all this people is something fundamentally wrong: they STILL categorize people into 4 or more races

    ….

    thats what racism is if you belive in the existence of races

    and teh really tiresome thing about this whole thing is that most people who still cling to this supersticious belive, try to surpress every discussion of it

    people like those comentoprs above are just tiresome and annoying you cant discuss racism with them because they try to deny its existence
    and all because they love how it works out in their favour

    just like back in the days the nobility didnt liked people critisizing the monarchys and oligarchy becuase that would take away their priviliges…

    yeah a sheep cant discuss with a wolf why everyone should be vegetarian

    • sle

      love the idiom! “a sheep can’t discuss with a wolf why everyone should be vegetarian.” consider that stolen!

  • Earl

    Being a gay male, I have had numerous heated discussions with other gay men about dating and in my mind, if you say in a profile “Prefer black” or “Prefer white” or even stronger “Only xxx” this is being racist. You prefer a specific race for dating or sex. Discussing it further with most of them they have never TRIED to date the objecting race in their profile so they have no idea if they would like that “person” instead of that “Black person”. I personally find it offensive to post such dating/sex ads. I think they show the shallow nature of the persons posting them. If you have a preference for hair color I can live with that. But if you exclude an entire race of people as if they are the borg collective and all think with one brain, you are being a racist. To me, end of discussion.

  • antman

    The word “racism” refers to a actions that are a PATTERN of behavior among large groups of people. It’s a leap to use the word to describe interactions between a couple of people. So if one white woman prefers one race over another in a single interaction, it doesn’t necessarily constitute racism. HOWEVER, if MANY white women do the same thing, in such a frequency that it goes beyond what would be expected given the numbers of people in selected ethnic groups, all other things being equal, it would be safe to conjecture that what is happening could be called “racism.”

    • Martin-2

      Why do you think that’s what racism means? I’m familiar with this definition but it didn’t just come out of nowhere.

    • sle

      that straw mans argument is so convoluted and illogical, it needs to be withdrawn.

  • http://N/A Junis

    It IS racism. Because the availability of non-white men and black women is rubbished by the other members who themselves are not innocent. A woman that says being ‘white’ overrides other characteristics such as personality, confidence, nationality and intelligence is extremely racist.

    • ceruleanblue777

      Nope. It’s as legitimate as having a preference for any other physical trait.

      Or don’t you like really hairy, overweight guys?

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7HH5JRNTP2DCQJYKBTZXXHX47Y Brutalisk

    There’s nothing racist about having a preference.

    I’m not particularly attracted to black women, so it’s stupid to call me a racist because of that.
    Would you call me a homophobe because i’m not attracted to other men? No? Didn’t think so…

    • Martin-2

      Your first statement is controversial but I might agree. An obvious application is “it’s not racist to prefer black employees to white employees” and this is something many don’t agree with.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Todd-Isler/100002133082944 Todd Isler

       There is a great difference between genders and race. Your logic is convoluted. Genders are different. Science has proven races are all virtually the same. You are a racist. And stupid.

      • oldoddjobs

        Wow, what a jerk!

  • George

    Whites will justify it and say it is not racism, because the word itself implies ignorance and a lack of soul/heart.  When choosing a partner, the race should not matter – only the specific individual attributes of the person in question.  By excluding a potential partner due to their race, you are actually not deciding on their unsuitability based on their individual traits, but rather, on their racial appearance alone (since you’ve never even given them the opportunity to express and demonstrate their uniqueness to you).  Let’s face – it is RACISM that is justified under an umbrella of ‘preference’.  Australian women are the most notorious for this.  I have struggled with this sort of thing despite having traits that most women tell each other, that they want in a partner, and simply because I am not a white Australian, and despite my efforts to better myself year after year.

    • oldoddjobs

      Is it racism in capital letters or a milder form of thoughtcrime?

    • ceruleanblue777

      Why are you being a racist by lumping all whites together? Why are you being a misogynist by lumping all Australian women together?

      You’re a misogynistic racist against white Australian women.

  • Sophie

    For me, this discussion is slightly unnerving because it seems to imply a removal of bodily autonomy. I always understood combating racism to mean fighting for a society in which everyone has full and equal human rights regardless of race. However, whilst everyone has the right to live lives free from discrimination or prejudice, NOBODY ever has the right to have sex with you. Ever. Individuals choose who they wish to have sex with, and their preferences can be as arbitrary or irrational as they choose, because it is their body and nobody else has a right to it. Just because someone does not wish to have sex with you, it doesn’t mean you’re being discriminated against. After all, many gay men express aversion to the idea of having sex with ANY woman, but that doesn’t make them sexist, does it?

    • sle

      do you also think that it is ok to discriminate based on race when it comes to friends? if not, how is this different from discriminating based on a mate?

      • oldoddjobs

        What does “ok” mean here? Does it mean “acceptable”? If so, acceptable to who? You?

      • ceruleanblue777

        Sure. I discriminate on who my friends are on any number of traits. If I decided that I didn’t want to be friends with someone based on their race, that’s my personal decision, and none of your business.

        If I tried to deny someone equality under the law based on race; that’s racism.

    • sle

      and what is “unnerving” about your comment is that you think that the only component to a relationship is sex.

    • ceruleanblue777

      THIS.

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  • Danonymous

    It is racism because people do care about the status quo image. You now got an institutionalized generation upon many generations of Asian/Asian-American, Latin-American, African-American, and mixed race women that prefer to only date white males and will go out of their way in finding one as their ideal mate. The western media continues to portray Asian males as mostly comical and unattractive even though anyone who’s grown up in the Asian communities understand that there are all different types of people, and not just one stereotype. Maybe if there were more women in the west coast naturally interested in dating an Asian man as a MAN, I wouldn’t notice racism so much. I personally find it quite tragic that just because I am Asian, I am expected to be hitched with only Asian women when it comes to dating. I find it equally disturbing that western society seems to worship the idea of all Asian men as being gay because it continues to discourage the idea that Asian males are even capable of having sexual contact with women. Now maybe I wouldn’t mind so much if the whole world was already embracing the notion that a man who engaged in a relationship with another man was actually considered to be exhibiting normal human behaviors.

    • sle

      what about jackie chan and glenn (from walking dead)? i think they are both attractive asian males who have been portrayed as many other lovable male characters that both women and men find attractive.

  • Wendy McMaster

    Racism is hatred for a particular race or belief they are inferior. Preference on who you find sexually appealing is not in itself racist. Stating you don’t wish to date a particular race because they are inferior or you hate them makes it racist. This race card has been over played and in reference to this articke totally stupid.

    • sle

      says the white girl who only dates white guys.

      • oldoddjobs

        Wow, devastating! Congratulations Sherlock, another racist rumbled.

      • ceruleanblue777

        So what? Does she have to date members of other races? What if she doesn’t find blacks attractive? Should she date a black guy just to make you happy? Are you going to call her a “racist” and bully her because you don’t agree with her choice in mates? Who gave YOU that authority? It’s none of your fucking business who anyone else chooses to be with, for whatever personal reasons they have for that choice.

  • gh0st

    Racial preference isn’t a concious act of prejudice; it is more a condemnation of a popular/dominant culture pushing specific defintion of beauty. Compre the number of ‘hot’ asian males in the media vs white males, or black females vs white females

  • SHYKID101

    Evolutionarily, mating has always been a “selective process” where there are certain criteria that one looks for in a mate. It’s the same in this case- if someone has a preference or aversion to a certain race when looking for a mate, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are racist. Even though it is probably wrong to characterize a whole group of people as unacceptable mates, it is also the case that everyone should have the right to choose who they have sex with. While we should have open minds about the people we consider to engage in relationships with, no one should be labeled a racist because of their sexual preferences, since it does not involve denying equal rights, civil liberties, etc. but is simply an inherent evolutionary instinct to provide for what one feels will be the fittest offspring.

  • ceruleanblue777

    Let’s legislate that whites must date members of other races, even if they aren’t physically attracted to them, because racism. Right? Right?

  • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

    Another explanation is that we only don’t care about racism in the “personal” sphere, though this just changes the question to what exactly is “personal” and why do we care differently about such things. What do you think?

    Your strongest point is that racial filters are used by dating services. Why make it easier to be a racist?

    The answer is that sex is very near-mode, and its pursuit is governed by far-mode strictures only weakly. Race, moreover, is itself a very near-mode (concrete) classification.

    (Thus, when they discuss race in dating, the commenters here often ignore their far-mode commitments.)

  • Jerameel Cartagena

    Im sorry, but I dont find certain racial features to be attractive, and it doesnt stop me from working with, and befriending people that have them. But I will not allow anyone to label me a racist because of that. If you dont like it that X person of Y race doesn’t date you because you are Z race, then thats your own goddamn problem and you should deal with it.

  • James Wiltsey

    Is it racist to say that Indian and Asian food smells bad to me a lot of the time and so I DON’T WANT TO DATE THE PEOPLE WHO EAT THIS FOOD? There is also a stereotype(right or wrong) that depicts Black and Asian women as materialistic and Black women as domineering, is it racist to want to avoid these issues without going thru a thousand dates with Black and Asian women to find the ones who aren’t? By the popular definition of racism it probably is but it’s also a sure way of avoiding these issues. Perhaps “racism” is sometimes not a bad word if used to weed thru problems or preferences in the dating world. This is America and We do have a right to date Whomever we choose by whatever criteria we choose. Would it be good to marry someone you know doesn’t do it for you. I don’t know but you think about it for yourself.

  • Jay Bird

    Its not racist. People can date whoever they want. No one has the right to tell you who to be attracted to. If I’m not attracted to tall asians that doesn’t make me a bad person lol

  • Joe

    People seem to think that they are free-thinking and able to come to decisions out of pure objectivity. Unfortunately, this is not at all true. There have been many studies that have proven that media and propaganda have overwhelming influence in the decisions we make everyday…especially with those who we believe are beautiful and sexy. Beauty and Sexiness (for men and women) are defined by the media and that has everything to do with who we find attractive. I think it is an obvious fact that people should be able to choose who they want to have sex with. That is not the issue here. The issue is that because of our subconscious notions of attractiveness rule our choice in choosing mates (it really rules our choices in everything) we are prone to exclude races that do not exhibit those physical and intangible attributes. Until people understand this idea, they are not going to understand that this is racism at its very core. It is the idea that one race is innately superior than another. This is how racism is defined.

  • PATU LOCA

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1XBzoLwdZo

    People need to appreciate and explore other races. This women understands this.