A study of college students at a large California university has found that people in interracial relationships tend to be more attractive than those dating someone of the same ethnicity. The research was published in the August issue of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
“Whereas previous research has found few consistent differences between interracial and intraracial daters in their motivations for dating and in their adjustment levels, this study suggests that interracial and intraracial daters may differ in their desirability as partners,” Karen Wu and her colleagues at the University of California, Irvine wrote in their study.
“Across the three studies, interracial daters exhibited more desirable attributes than intraracial daters, most consistently in the realm of physical attractiveness.”
An initial survey of 245 undergraduate students found interracial daters rated themselves more positively and thought their partners viewed them more positively. Compared to intraracial daters, interracial daters perceived that their partners saw them as more attractive, intelligent, affectionate, and trustworthy, the researchers found.
But the researchers observed that “a partner’s actual ratings would serve as a better approximation of an individual’s desirability than perceived partner ratings.” In a second survey, 100 couples who had been together at least three months rated each other’s attributes. Interracial daters were again rated more positively by their partners compared to intraracial daters.
In a third experiment, the researchers photographed 101 interracial and intraracial couples. Ten research assistants then viewed the faces of individual participants and rated their level of attractiveness. Interracial daters tended to be rated as more physically attractive than intraracial daters.
The researchers said their findings dispel historical stereotypes that portray interracial partners as undesirable.
“Interracial daters in our study were rated as possessing higher levels of desirable attributes and were aware of being rated highly by their partners,” Wu and her colleagues said. “This indicates that, at least in a diverse college sample, interracial relationships are unlikely to be motivated by a lack of dating opportunities within one’s own ethnic group.”
The study was not large enough to examine how different racial combinations impacted partner evaluations or attractiveness ratings. The researchers also acknowledged their study consisted mostly of Asians, Hispanics, and Caucasians, and it underrepresented African-Americans. “Blacks have a prolonged history of social alienation,” they noted, “thus predictors of their interracial dating may differ from those of other racial groups.”