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IRVINE -- Internet daters tend to observe racial stereotypes when seeking a mate, a UC Irvine study shows.
By analyzing Yahoo personals, researchers found that white men prefer Asian and Latino women to African American women as dating partners, and white women favor African American and Latino men over Asian men.
Asians, African Americans and Latinos were more likely to include white people as possible dates than white people were to include them -- suggesting that white people, as the dominant racial group in the U.S., hold the power when it comes to interracial dating.
The study analyzed profiles of people ages 18-50 in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Atlanta between September 2004 and May 2005.
According to researcher Cynthia Feliciano, negative portrayals of African American women and Asian men on TV and in movies and music may contribute to the preferences found.
"Stereotypical images of masculinity and femininity shape dating choices and continue to be perpetuated in the mass media," said Feliciano, UCI assistant professor of sociology and Chicano/Latino studies. "The hyper-feminine image of Asian American women contrasts greatly with the image of Asian men, who are often portrayed as asexual."
In comparison, the image of the strong African American woman is at odds with idealized notions of submissive and frail women. This may explain why African American women faced high levels of rejection among men, researchers said.
"Cultural portrayals of African American women in the media continue to stress traits seen as negative, such as bossiness," Feliciano said.
Though studies show racial attitudes have become increasingly tolerant and interracial marriage is no longer taboo, relatively low intermarriage rates do not reflect these trends, she said.
"Internet dating offers a unique lens through which to understand the process of selecting a partner and how race plays into that selection," Feliciano said.
UCI sociology associate professor Belinda Robnett and graduate student Golnaz Komaie also contributed to the study, which appears online in the March issue of the journal Social Science Research.
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