Online dating site OkCupid recently posted an entry on their blog entitled “The REAL ‘Stuff White People Like’“. The title is an obvious nod to the “Stuff White People Like” blog and book, but doesn’t really capture the post’s topic.  It is essentially a collection of statistics on self-descriptions from 526,000 OkCupid users, broken down by race and gender, and a subsequent section sorted by religion.

The top five most common terms in white guys’ profiles are: Tom Clancy, Van Halen, Golfing, Harley Davidson, and Ghostbusters. White gals’ top five are: the Red Sox, Jodi Picoult, boating, Nascar, and mascara. I’m not sure what conclusion we can draw from this, or the corresponding lists for Black, Asian and Latino people, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t what these groups “like.” It seems likely that these common phrases are really the product of what the user assumes others will find attractive.  This is a dating site after all.  So, it’s not too surprising that Black guys have “I am cool” on their list and Asians have “I’m a simple guy/girl” on theirs.  (Interestingly, “I’m a simple guy” shows up on the Indian and Middle Eastern male lists, too.  What is it about that concept that guys think will be so appealing? Does it suggest traditional values, a hip anti-intellectualism, or an easy-going personality? What is this code for?)

The post goes into some even more delicate areas when they decided to run a reading-level analysis.  Using the Coleman-Liau Index, they analyzed user profiles and then separated them by race.  OkCupid's Profile Reading Level by Race
And then they went back and compared against religion. That graph squares nicely with the racially-based one if you consider the dominant religions in the racial categories. Atheism and agnosticism have been linked with higher education levels, too. OkCupid Profiles' Reading Level By Religion

But let’s back up for a second here and note that none of the profiles rate above the 9th grade reading level.  The Cloeman-Liau index only looks at the length of words by character (as opposed to syllables) and the length of sentences in words. For the casual nature of an online profile, this benchmark probably doesn’t accurately reflect intelligence,education level or, well, anything.

I find it unusual and refreshing that the site is making this information public on their blog rather than trolling through it looking for marketing angles. It is also brave of them to discuss the often delicate subject of differences among races. It’s a little baffling why they would choose to do blog about racial distinctions, but I suppose that this being a “random”, and therefore presumably unbiased, collection of statistics protects them from charges of racism.  Well, that and the  fact that we’re talking about an online dating site’s users whose self-applied labels are known to be of dubious veracity and statistically unreliable for the population as a whole. OkCupid’s blog posts consistently get attention (people want to read “insider information” on online dating, it seems) and this semi-controversial subject garnered a good deal of pageviews and blog mentions. Perhaps the motivation for this post isn’t so hard to discern; it’s a buzz generator.

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