The internet promises a more connected world. I study how social boundaries are produced and reproduced in cyberspace.

The Dating Divide: Race and Desire in the Era of Online Romance

(with Celeste Vaughan Curington, Jennifer H. Lundquist )

The Dating Divide is the first comprehensive look at “digital-sexual racism,” a distinct form of racism that is mediated and amplified through the impersonal and anonymous context of online dating. Drawing on large-scale behavioral data from a mainstream dating website, extensive archival research, and more than seventy-five interviews with daters of diverse racial backgrounds and sexual identities, the authors illustrate how the internet fosters openly expressed forms of sexual racism rarely exposed in face-to-face encounters. The Dating Divide is a fascinating look at how a contemporary conflux of individualization, consumerism, and the proliferation of digital technologies has given rise to a unique form of gendered racism in the era of swiping right—or left.

The internet is often heralded as an equalizer, a seemingly level playing field, but the digital world also acts as an extension of and platform for the insidious prejudices and divisive impulses that affect social politics in the "real" world. Shedding light on how every click, swipe, or message can be linked to the history of gendered racism and courtship in the United States, this compelling study uses data to show the racial biases at play in digital dating spaces.

University of California Press

Mate Selection in Cyberspace: The Intersection of Race, Gender, and Education

(with Jennifer Lundquist)

In this article, the authors examine how race, gender, and education jointly shape interaction among heterosexual Internet daters. They find that racial homophily dominates mate-searching behavior for both men and women. A racial hierarchy emerges in the reciprocating process. Women respond only to men of similar or more dominant racial status, while nonblack men respond to all but black women. Significantly, the authors find that education does not mediate the observed racial preferences among white men and white women. White men and white women with a college degree are more likely to contact and to respond to white daters without a college degree than they are to black daters with a college degree.

Interracial Unions and Racial Assortative Mating in an Age of Growing Diversity, Shifting Intimate Relationships, and Emerging Technologies

(with Jennifer Lundquist and Celeste Curington)

While racial assortative mating and interracial unions have been a central interest in the study of race relations and family demography since the early twentieth century, there have been marked changes in the social contexts in which these processes have taken place in recent decades. This review article examines three important shifts: (a) the rise of population diversity and its impact on traditional views of racial integration, (b) the changing institution of marriage in American life, and (c) the increasing centrality of technology. We discuss how these societal shifts have challenged traditional understandings of preferences, opportunities, and intermediaries in the mate selection process, as well as new opportunities for interracial intimacy that these changes have introduced. We conclude with a discussion on conceptual issues and promising future research directions.

Positioning Multiraciality in Cyberspace: Treatment of Multiracial Daters in an Online Dating Website

(with Celeste Curington and Jennifer Lundquist)

The U.S. multiracial population has grown substantially in the past decades, yet little is known about how these individuals are positioned in the racial hierarchies of the dating market. Using data from one of the largest dating websites in the United States, we examine how monoracial daters respond to initial messages sent by multiracial daters with various White/non-White racial and ethnic makeups. We test four different theories: hypodescent, multiracial in-betweenness, White equivalence, and what we call a multiracial dividend effect. We find no evidence for the operation of hypodescent. Asian-White daters, in particular, are afforded a heightened status, and Black-White multiracials are treated as an in-between group. For a few specific multiracial gender groups, we find evidence for a dividend effect, where multiracial men and women are preferred above all other groups, including Whites. 

Is Love (Color) Blind? The Economy of Race among White Gay & Straight Daters

(with Jennifer Lundquist)

A drawback to research on interracial couplings is that it almost exclusively studies heterosexual relationships. However, compelling new evidence from analyses using the Census shows that interracial relationships are significantly more common among the gay population. It is unclear how much of this reflects weaker racial preference or more limited dating markets. This paper examines the interactions of white gay and straight online daters who have access to a large market of potential partners by modeling dyadic messaging behaviors. Results show that racial preferences are highly gendered, and do not line up neatly by gay or straight identity. White lesbians and straight men show the weakest same-race preference, followed by gay men, while straight women show the strongest same-race preference. Put differently, minority men are discriminated to a greater degree than minority women in both same-sex and different-sex dating markets. These results suggest that white gay men's higher rates of interracial cohabitation are driven more by constrained dating markets, while lesbians' appear to be driven by more open racial preferences.

Tipping the Multiracial Color-Line: Racialized Preferences of Multiracial Online Daters 

(with Celeste Curington and Jennifer Lundquist)

Building on previous work on US multiraciality, we analyze the messaging patterns of Asian-white, Hispanic-white, and black-white multiracial heterosexual users on one of the largest mainstream dating websites in the USA. We consider how multiracials’ online dating behaviors reflect, accommodate or challenge racialized desirability hierarchies among heterosexual daters. The study’s results illustrate that Hispanic-white multiracial men show similar preferences to both their multiracial and monoracial in-groups, while Asian-white and black-white multiracial men most prefer their multiracial counterparts. Hispanic-white multiracial women, on the other hand, privilege whiteness and multiraciality, while Asian-white multiracial women show most preference for their multiracial in-groups. Overall, our findings illustrate that both multiracial men and women’s online dating behaviors illustrate a linked privileging of white multiraciality while they also reinforce a hierarchical ranking of racial desirability anchored by anti-Blackness.