Have you ever dated someone of another ethnicity? If you have, you’re a part of a growing minority. Interracial dating is on the rise: according to the Pew Research Center, 12% of new marriages were between partners of different races in 2013 compared to less than 1% of marriages in 1960. Researchers at UC Irvine looked deeper into what might be underpinning the trend. The researchers surveyed 245 undergraduates who were in a relationship, about a quarter of whom were in interracial relationships. The surveys were designed to measure the extent to which respondents saw positive attributes like intelligence, kindness, and attractiveness in themselves and in their significant other.
The results? Those who dated interracially scored their partners higher for possessing desirable qualities like intelligence, compassion and attractiveness than did those who dated someone of their own race. As an interesting side note, traits that respondents did not score as important in a partner included spirituality, wealth, and power.
The researchers hypothesize that this could result from the need to compensate for biases that still exist toward interracial dating. Other research has shown that many interracial daters face exclusion from friends and family, and minorities in interracial relationships may face criticism for having turned their backs on their culture.
The bottom line: There seems to be a social penalty for dating interracially, and while that certainly isn’t an acceptable status quo, there is an upshot. When we do date interracially, there may be a kind of compensation at play, because it’s usually with someone that we consider really phenomenal.