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Log in through your institution. Go to Table of Contents. Two studies are reported in which the effects of interacial context on ratings of physical attractiveness were investigated. White Ss rated the attrativeness of black and white females whose photos were viewed in one of four context conditions - all black, all white, predominantly black, or predominantly white. In Experiment I, it was found that in homogeneous contexts all black and all whitethere were no differences in the ratings of white and black females. However, in heterogeneous contexts predominantly black or white ratings of white females were ificantly enhanced in black contexts while ratings of black females were ificantly lowered in white contexts.


Models of interracial marriage, based on the exchange of racial status for other capital, cannot explain these asymmetries. A new explanation is offered based on the relative perceived facial attractiveness of the different race-by-gender groups.

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This explanation was tested using a survey of perceived facial attractiveness. This found that Black males are perceived as more attractive than White or East Asian males whereas among females, it is the East Asians that are perceived as most attractive on average. Incorporating these attractiveness patterns into the model of marriage decisions produces asymmetries in interracial marriage similar to those in the observed data in terms of direction and relative size.

This model does not require differences in status between races nor different strategies based on gender. Predictions are also generated regarding the relative attractiveness of those engaging in interracial White women most attractive. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attributionwhich permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Competing interests: The author has declared that no competing interests exist.

The majority of marriages in the US and the UK are between people of the same racial background race is used here to indicate a broad group of ethnicities as employed in the US census. The incidence of interracial marriage, however, is increasing particularly in the US since the repeal of the anti-miscegenation laws in [1]. Of particular interest here are the clear patterns that emerge from the analysis of which interracial marriages occur more often than others. A striking aspect of the data on interracial marriages is the size of the gender asymmetries [1] — [3].

These asymmetries appear robust across time and culture. If we focus upon marriages between White and Black people then we observe that there are over twice as many marriages between Black men and White women than between White men and Black women in the US. The asymmetry is smaller in the UK but still present. The gender asymmetries are even larger for marriages that include Asian and White people.

In this situation, however, it is the of White men marrying Asian women that is over twice the of White women marrying Asian men.

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The largest asymmetry shows that marriages between Black men and Asian women in the US out those between Asian men and Black women by about five to one. The current paper aims to explain the observed patterns of gender asymmetry in interracial marriage. First, existing s for the phenomenon are considered. One such is that there are differences in societal pressures for males and females. Economics-based marriage models are considered but these require different statuses for different races and it is argued that they fail to capture the details of asymmetries.

An explanation based on height differences is also explored but it is shown through data modelling how this can only explain part of the observed asymmetries. Finally, a new explanation based on facial attractiveness differentials between races for different genders is explored. For this to explain the patterns of asymmetries observed, however, a particular pattern of facial attractiveness must be present among the different races.

An experiment is reported that acquired the necessary facial attractiveness data to explore this model further. From these data, the model was implemented in order to test whether it could explain the patterns of gender asymmetry observed in interracial marriage. A speculative evolutionary is also provided as to why it is the case that differences in the perceived attractiveness of genders of different races occur.

One possible explanation for gender asymmetries in interracial marriage is that the there are differential societal pressures upon the different genders to marry within their ethnic group. A suggested example might be that males from the Indian sub-continent living in the UK might be freer to interact with the White community than females from the same community [5].

Sexual behavior and attitudes among white, black, latinx, and asian college students

While there probably are some societal pressures acting against the formation of interracial marriages, this explanation for the observed asymmetries only works if these act differently upon male and female members of the same racial group. It has been found, however, that there is no evidence of differential societal pressures on East-Asian or Black men and women regarding interracial marriage [6]. These racial groups, together with White people, form the focus of analysis here and so societal pressures do not explain the patterns of data seen.

Social-exchange theory of marriage proposes that there can be a trade off between one party's economic wealth and the other's status [7].

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This theory has been used to explain why a rich but less physically attractive person might marry an attractive but poorer person [8]. In relation to interracial marriage, race is often described as a marker of status in the marriage marketplace and examples are quoted where a wealthy Black man might marry a poorer White woman [10].

The claim is that the social exchange that takes place is between the woman's racial status for the man's socioeconomic status or wealth. This idea of race as being a status factor in the social exchange of marriage has been explored empirically [12]. It has been suggested that when people are presented with mixed-race couples, they are more willing to accept a Black man White women most attractive an unattractive White woman than a Black man with an attractive White woman.

It was concluded from this that people felt more comfortable when the low status man arguably the Black man rather than a White man was paired with the low status woman arguably the less attractive woman. It was argued that this experiment supports the notion that racial status has objective value within the marriage market and there is a clear racial hierarchy with White people above Black people.

The of this study, and hence the conclusions, are limited by a of facts: only White participants were tested on their opinions; only a Black male was used as the male partner, and the Black male in the experiment did not vary in attractiveness.

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Thetherefore only tell us about the hierarchy of racial status as perceived by White people when looking at Black males. Relationships between Black females and White males were not assessed and opinions of Black participants were not assessed. Incorporating race as status into the social exchange theory of marriage is problematic. The origins of this social-exchange theory of marriage stem from caste systems of India [13].

In this system there is an agreed hierarchy between the different castes. This system does not translate easily to the American or British society in which there is no clearly defined hierarchy of ethnicities. Members of ethnic or racial groups would not consider their group to have legitimately a lower status than any other group or else there would not have been the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Explaining interracial marriage in the US or UK in terms of social exchange, where one person's White status is exchanged for wealth or security, can be argued to be a White-centric myth.

Research supports this social exchange to be a myth because interracial marriages show the same degree of similarity between partners' status as same-race marriages [14]. Hence, there is no evidence for racial status to be a commodity for White women most attractive exchange in these cultures.

While it is accepted that there may be social exchange in marriage, it is argued here that race does not need to enter into this exchange in a hierarchical manner.

A body that does not compare: how white men define black female beauty in the era of colorblindness

As will be shown below, the gender asymmetries in interracial marriage can be explained without there being a racial hierarchy. Another model of interracial marriage is the equilibrium sorting explanation [15]. Applying game theory, people select mates such that they maximise their productivity and, through equilibrium sorting, they maximise the productivity of the system.

On this model, there is a cost associated with interracial marriage, but this can be outweighed by the gains of having a partner with high human capital e. A consequence of this is that individuals who choose to marry outside of their race will, on average, be more highly educated [1].

While this model is useful for explaining some of the data, there are two problems with this model. First, the data from education levels do not show interracial marriage to be more common among more educated people either in the US [14] or the UK [16]. Second, as the cost of interracial marriage applies across men and women, it does not explain the large asymmetries observed for interracial marriages.

As we will see later, however, a variation of this explanation is able to capture the observed patterns of interracial marriage White women most attractive we incorporate facial attractiveness into the model. In spite of the decades of modelling of marriage data, none of the traditional economic models deal unequivocally with the issue of gender asymmetry in interracial marriage. One recent proposal, however, has been offered that does provide a possible explanation.

This explanation is simple, elegant and is based on differences in the human anatomy between the races concerned. It has been proposed that the gender asymmetries in interracial marriage can be attributed to differences in average heights of the race-by-gender groups [6]. It has been observed that Blacks, on average, are taller than Asians based on the health survey for England, and this may affect mate choice.

For White females, this norm will not have much of an effect on their choice of White or Black partners, but, as Asian men tend to be shorter, the male-superior norm will reduce the of potential Asian partners. This means that, all other things being equal, height will discount more potential Asian partners than either Black or White partners.

There would, therefore, be a bias against White women marrying Asian Men that is not present for Asian women marrying White men. The consequence would be that height would act to discount more Black than White women as potential partners for White men leading to the observed asymmetry. Although this is an elegant explanation, there are limitations to how well it can explain the gender asymmetry in terms of height alone. There is little difference in the height of Black and White males or Black and White females and even the difference between heights between White and Asian people cannot explain all of the asymmetry.

This can be demonstrated using Monte Carlo style analysis of population patterns. To show the limitation of the height explanation, statistical modelling of the height data from the Health Survey for England was carried out. Random pairs of males and females were generated according to their height distributions for Black, White and Chinese people. Comparing these random pairs found few occasions when the women is taller than the man.

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The comparison between the Black and White pairings is also difficult to reconcile with the observed data. A typical White man is shorter than a typical Black woman In this case, the male-superior norm can only explain a tiny proportion of the gender asymmetry observed in intermarriage between Black and White people. While difference in height between the different races can explain some of the observed gender asymmetry in interracial marriage, it does not explain the strength of the patterns observed.

Height may certainly have a role to play but there must be other factors also contributing to interracial partner choice patterns. There exists a lay understanding that choosing who we marry is related to physical attraction.

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