Interracial dating and marriage is a natural phenomenon in the countries where people of different races live together. Of course, the proportion of interracial couples is smaller than in the imaginary experiment where partners are paired in a totally random way. It shows that we do have a preference to date and marry people from our own racial group… But this is hardly a surprising fact.
More interesting patterns can be discovered if we take a deeper look into statistics. One of such patterns – when it comes to Asians, and especially Chinese – is related to the gender disparity in interracial marriages. That is, the number of Chinese women marrying white men is 2 to 3 times higher than the reverse tendency (Chinese men marrying white women).
Different explanations have been offered for this phenomenon. Here are some of them:
- Women more often than men have chances to actualize their desire to marry up and marrying a white partner helps to increase the social status;
- Western women are more emancipated and their independence is a turn-off for men who look for more traditional Asian women. Thus, Westerners enter the competition with Asian men for their own females;
- Related to the latter is a so-called “Asian Fetish” of some white men coupled with the objectification of Asian women.
As you can see, all these hypotheses have rather negative connotations. That’s why I was very happy to find a recent study which suggested a totally different framework. I refer to a paper “Anthropometry of Love” published two years ago by Michèle Belot and Jan Fidrmuc.
First, they explained why current theories fail to reflect the gender asymmetries observed in the interethnic marriages. For example, the socio-economic reasoning falls short because:
The data show that black men who intermarry tend to be less educated than those who intramarry and black women are generally more educated than black men yet it is the black men who are more likely to intermarry with whites.
So, what alternative has been proposed by the aforementioned research?
Well… its hypothesis is so simple, that it really made me wonder why Belot and Fidrmuc were the first researchers to test it. They speculated and confirmed that the large part of gender asymmetries can be explained by the height distributions among different races and the universal preference for “taller husband”!
On average, blacks are taller than Asians and are of similar height as whites. This rule implies that black males should fare better in the white marriage market than East and South Asian men while the opposite should hold for black and Asian women. We present empirical evidence in support of this hypothesis using data from the Health Survey for England (2004) and the Millenium Cohort Study (2000), which shows that the height preference rule is indeed a very good predictor of the probability of intermarrying with whites.
Those who are interested to see the detailed statistical analysis standing behind this conclusion can follow the link to the original research. Honestly speaking, after initial surprise, I began thinking that no matter how simple (and maybe even simplistic) this explanation is, it can be much closer to truth than many other twisted and complicated theories.
I remember once reading very curious statistics (sorry, but I couldn’t find the source on internet). Researchers analyzed various aspects in which man and woman in heterosexual couples are NOT similar. Then they rated these differences by incidence. Guess what kind of difference was the rarest one?
It wasn’t the difference in political views or big age gap; neither was it the presence vs. lack of previous sexual experience, different race, religion, education, financial situation, dietary habits or any other difference you would think of. Paradoxically, the rarest occurrence among married couples was of those where woman was taller than man!!
Of course, it doesn’t make the pill sweeter for Asian men or Black women, but it kind of “cleans” White men from the accusations in perversive motives. And it gives a simple explanation to Dr. Hubinette’s question why “Even the adopted men from East and Southeast Asia have in today’s Sweden obvious difficulties to find (Swedish) female partners.”
Since this post cites academic sources, let me conclude with another quote from an interesting paper. Ray Fisman et al. analyzed the racial preferences of Columbia University students who participated in speed dating sessions over the course of two years. Fisman writes:
We found no evidence of the stereotype of a white male preference for East Asian women. However, we also found that East Asian women did not discriminate against white men (only against black and Hispanic men). As a result, the White man-Asian woman pairing was the most common form of interracial dating—but because of the women’s neutrality, not the men’s pronounced preference.
Now, that’s a real surprise! Does it mean that the real victims of Yellow Fever are White men? Or maybe from now on it should be called White Fever?
Student of Yellow/White Fever Studies, Crystal Tao