Trends in Interracial Dating
The Los Angeles Times reports some interesting, if unsurprising, numbers:
Twentysomething brides and grooms are typically more accepting of interracial relationships than their parents. When the Pew Research Center in Washington began polling Americans about their attitudes toward interracial dating in 1987, only 48% of the public approved. By 2003, the most recent year the question was asked, acceptance had increased to 77%.
The greatest acceptance was among the youngest polled: 91% of Generation Y participants said in 2003 they approved of interracial dating, compared with 85% of Gen Xers, 77% of boomers and 49% of the World War II generation.
Since I myself am in an interracial marriage, I tend to find such trends quite encouraging. I imagine that many others do, as well.
But, of course, we have to be cautious about drawing the wrong conclusions from the numbers. Simply because people approve of such relationships does not necessarily mean that they seek to become involved in them. Perhaps the most enlightening section of Freakonomics deals with the often wide gap between stated preferences and revealed preferences. Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner highlight a paper about online dating entitled “What Makes You Click,” which shows that approximately half of white women and more than three-quarters of white men declare no ethnic preference in searching for a date. Yet around 97% of these women and 90% of these men send email queries to members of the same ethnicity.
To be sure, it’s difficult to say definitively whether people lie about interracial dating or whether other preferences just happen to lead to this breakdown. The study’s authors — Gunter Hitsch, Ali Hortacsu, and Dan Ariely — do not delve this far (seemingly because of sample-size issues). But I think that we should view the Times statistics with some skepticism. In general, polls are susceptible to lies. When they touch on race, and respondents have incentives to portray open-mindedness, the methodological problem heightens.