Guess who’s coming to dinner: the stranger


A preprint on aRxiv, The Strength of Absent Ties: Social Integration via Online Dating, purports to explain the increased rate of interracial/ethnic marriage in the United States as a consequence of online dating. They have ways to control for the fact that the proportion of non-whites in the United States has been increasing over the same time period. It diminishes the effect based on their model that online dating results in more interracial marriage, but it does not abolish the effect. They observe that interracial marriages seem to have increased around 1995, when the internet began, 2006, when services like OKCupid became very popular, and in 2014 when Tindr became a phenomenon.

I don’t know about these dates and the impacts of these services on the census data. Rather, the key and more interesting findings are that many more Americans now marry people who are total strangers outside of their social networks.* Previously more people tended to marry people who they were loosely connected to. Not close friends, but perhaps acquaintances, or friends of friends. With ~30% of marriages being attributable to online dating, people who are totally unconnected are now marrying, and so binding together two very distinct networks (in theory). This is an important dynamic to observe and note.

On the whole, I’m pessimistic about the United States. These results make me optimistic.

* Though to be fair, among a certain set it has always been common to marry people you meet at university. In this case, you are likely from two different social networks entirely. This is the case for me, and most of my friends from what I can tell. So the effect must be more impactful lower down the socioeconomic index.

14 thoughts on “Guess who’s coming to dinner: the stranger

  1. Though to be fair, among a certain set it has always been common to marry people you meet at university. In this case, you are likely from two different social networks entirely.

    I am confused by this statement. I always thought that finding spouses at universities was the so-called assortative mating. I married my college sweetheart at an Ivy League university, and know many similar couples (with weddings announced in major newspapers). Very “bobo” as David Brooks once put it. Such marriages have been mostly convergence of similar (sometimes even the same/related) social networks, rather than “two different social networks entirely.”

    On the whole, I’m pessimistic about the United States. These results make me optimistic.

    I am in general bewildered by the phenomenon of online dating and “hookups.” It’s very alien to me. What makes you think that marriages based on these are enduring and the merging of the very different social networks permanent? Are the algorithms superior (as matchmakers were in the past compared to “love” marriages)? Do they actually generate encounters and subsequently marriages among people who are from drastically different social backgrounds?

  2. The problem, as I see it, is the sort of civic nationalism that would sustain this is only possible in a high IQ (at least above average) society. Unless the mental horsepower exists to override our base natures, this will end with balkanization, or with even more radical political changes.

    This is because the dysgenic nature of America’s welfare bureaucracy (centralized welfare distribution to socially unaccountable recipients) leads to the increase of dyscivic, poorly socialized, unemployable personality types (you can breed for personality within just three generations).

    Much like how in business, you can have it fast, cheap or good: Pick any two…

    …In a society, you can have multiculturalism, liberal democracy, or a welfare state: Pick any two.

    I hope I am wrong, but hope is not a strategy.

  3. Interracial marriages, especially between black men and white women, have substantially higher divorce rates than do same race marriages. So why does the increase in such unions make you optimistic?

  4. Twinkie, if I went to high school in a wealthy place in Massachusetts that spent a lot on the schools and then in college meet and marry someone who went to high school in a wealthy place in Ohio that spent a lot of money on schools, that would be assortative mating.

    However, if we came to college without any mutual friends or friends of friends (which is likely), we would be “from two different social networks entirely.”

    Social networks are about the people you know. Assortative mating is about the people you are similar to.

  5. So why does the increase in such unions make you optimistic?

    did you read the fucking post? it wasn’t about interracial marriages (though i started there since that’s what the preprint was about)

    Social networks are about the people you know. Assortative mating is about the people you are similar to.

    yes. though not totally clear these data suggest that perhaps people are assorting more on traits that are hard to measure, but out of their social networks. this would make sense since you have more people you could “match” with as you expand the network of possibilities….

    The problem, as I see it, is the sort of civic nationalism that would sustain this is only possible in a high IQ (at least above average) society. Unless the mental horsepower exists to override our base natures, this will end with balkanization, or with even more radical political changes.

    i think it’s totally feasible and sustainable in the sort of explicit oligarchy with some merit-based advancement we’re headed toward.

  6. “i think it’s totally feasible and sustainable in the sort of explicit oligarchy with some merit-based advancement we’re headed toward.”

    Yeah… No.

    Like I wrote: In a society, you can have multiculturalism, liberal democracy, or a welfare state: Pick any two.

  7. like I wrote: In a society, you can have multiculturalism, liberal democracy, or a welfare state: Pick any two.

    what the fuck do you think i wrote? you think an explicit oligarchy is ‘liberal democracy’? are you stupid or do you just not read closely and think about what you read?

    i get people think they are being clever and novel by repeating shit they read on the interwebs, but i’ve been writing about this stuff for long enough that i’ve encountered all these ideas. update your fucking priors.

  8. I believe the latest thing regarding comments in blogs seems to be:

    1. Read a few lines (no more than 140 words) of the blog
    2. Post a random comment of their own pet theory which has no relevance to the post in question (my contribution = Narwals are Siberian mammoths that adapted to the sea!)
    3. The pet theory should be sufficiently outlandish and ironic, but need not be true.

    I blame twitter for all of this. Almost all twitter comments are supposed to be “ironic”.

  9. has it gotten worse? always been commenters who will turn every post toward their own hobby-horse. i’m actually pretty good at sniffing this sort of stuff out and generally expel that sort early on.

    though it is always strange to me when people leave a comment based on the title and later admit they didn’t read the post, as sometimes their inference from the title was opposite to what i actually said. it’s like they have no shame.

  10. I shop at Wal-Mart on a regular basis. I also drive through the back neighborhoods of a medium sized metro area on a regular basis. This information matches what I see. I think the American people get along better with each other than the media and politicians want you to believe. Their incentives are to stir up conflict a and cause problems that they alone can solve. I don’t know if the phenomenon is caused by the internet. It seems to widespread to me for that to be an explanation.

  11. Social networks are about the people you know. Assortative mating is about the people you are similar to.

    Yes, I am aware of the definitional distinction. HOWEVER, what I was getting at – apparently very poorly – was that, for there to be some hope of Americans of very different backgrounds and ideologies to get along (which I perhaps wrongly assumed was Mr. Razib’s source of optimism), this kind of mating/merging should be that both of different social networks AND of the disassortative type.

    People meeting and marrying out of universities might be, technically, from different social networks, but if it is the assortative type, functionally it might as well be the same networks since they will be similar. I guess what I am saying is that I don’t share any faith that universities or online dating would increase harmony among Americans since they seem to accentuate previous patterns of primary social group formation rather than counteract the increasing self-segregation and -bonding of different groups.

    Maybe forcible exchange of students between elite universities and conservative Christian schools are in order.

  12. “People meeting and marrying out of universities might be, technically, from different social networks, but if it is the assortative type, functionally it might as well be the same networks since they will be similar. I guess what I am saying is that I don’t share any faith that universities or online dating would increase harmony among Americans since they seem to accentuate previous patterns of primary social group formation rather than counteract the increasing self-segregation and -bonding of different groups.

    “Maybe forcible exchange of students between elite universities and conservative Christian schools are in order.”

    You lost me at the word forcible. Agree that dating apps basically facilitate assortive mating/socialization. I’ve tried using Tinder to befriend members of the opposite sex whose race and class backgrounds differ from my own (and that’s happened to some extent), but that hasn’t translated into me hooking up with or dating outside my race or socioeconomic level.

  13. I agree that in many ways assortative mating will increase segregation, both physical and mental. But it will be more Morlock/Eloi than white/non-white.

  14. You lost me at the word forcible.

    I was not serious… merely indicating the kind of coercion required to smash different groups together nowadays.

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