The REAL ‘Stuff White People Like’

September 8th, 2010 by Christian Rudder

What is it that makes a culture unique? How are whites, blacks, Asians, or whoever different from everybody else? What tastes, interests, and concepts define an ethnic group? And is there any way to make fun of other races in public and get away with it?

These are big questions, and here's how we answered them.

We selected 526,000 OkCupid users at random and divided them into groups by their (self-stated) race. We then took all these people's profile essays (280 million words in total!) and isolated the words and phrases that made each racial group's essays statistically distinct from the others'.

For instance, it turns out that all kinds of people list sushi as one of their favorite foods. But Asians are the only group who also list sashimi; it's a racial outlier. Similarly, as we shall see, black people are 20 times more likely than everyone else to mention soul food, whereas no foods are distinct for white people, unless you count diet coke.

Using this kind of analysis, we were able find the interests, hobbies, tastes, and self-descriptions that are specially important to each racial group, as determined by the words of the group itself. The information in this article is not our opinion. It's data, aggregated from the essays of half a million real people.

So here's the real stuff white people like.

Click on the icons to toggle between men/women.

In general, I won't comment too much on these lists, because the whole point of this piece is to let the groups speak for themselves, but I have to say that the mind of the white man is the world's greatest sausagefest. Unless you're counting Queens of the Stone Age, there is not even one vaguely feminine thing on his list, and as far as broad categories go we have: sweaty guitar rock, bro-on-bro comedies, things with engines, and dystopias.

As for the interests of white women, you have romance novels, some country music, and a broad selection of Good Housekeeping type stuff. It's also amazing the extent to which their list shows a pastoral or rural self-mythology: bonfires, boating, horseback riding, thunderstorms. I remind you that OkCupid's user base is almost all in large cities, where to one degree or another, if you find yourself doing much of any of these things, civilization has come to an end.

If I had to choose over-arching themes for white people's lists, for men, I'd go with "frat house" and for women, "escapism." Whether one begot the other is a question I'll leave to the reader.

Stuff black people like.

Hopefully it's been obvious that the font-size of a phrase indicates the relative frequency with which it appears. So, toggling between black men and black women above, you can see that while soul food is important to both, it's really, really important to the women. In fact, soul food and black women is the single strongest phrase/group pair we found.

The above lists also make it clear that, regardless of whether Jesus himself was black, his most vocal followers definitely are. Religious expressions weren't among the top phrases for any of the other races, but they're all over the place for black men and (especially) black women, for whom 13 of the top 50 phrases are religious. Black people are more than twice as likely than average to mention their faith in their profiles.

Finally, it's worth noting that of the four lists we've seen so far, black women's is the only one to explicitly include someone of another race: Justin Timberlake.

Double finally, how bold is it that I am cool is the second most typical phrase for black men?

OkTrends Racial Stereotype #1

In the course of researching this article and, in particular, comparing white guys to black guys, a handy shortcut occurred to me:

If you're trying to figure out if white dudes like something, put fucking in the middle, and say it out loud. If it sounds totally badass, white dudes probably love it. Let's see this principle in practice:

Stuff Latinos like.

Music and dancing—merengue, bachata, reggaeton, salsa—are obviously very important to Latinos of both genders. The men have two other fascinating things going on: an interest in telling you about their sense of humor (i'm a funny guy, very funny, outgoing and funny, etc.) and an interest in industrial strength ass-kicking (mma, ufc, boxing, marines, etc.) Basically, if a Latin dude tells you a joke, you should laugh.

OkTrends Racial Stereotype #2

El chiste de knock-knock:

Latinas' interests are fairly typical for a dating site: you got friends, career, education, movies, music, a few physical details, and, oh yeah...morbid fear. We dug further into I'm terrified of (on their list at #42) and found which words typically came next. It's mostly insects and "the dark", though one expert tautologist is "terrified of being scared" and another woman is "terrified of Martians."

I feel obligated to state, on behalf of white men everywhere: That woman should get a grip. Martians are nothing compared to the Sardaukar.

Stuff Asians like.

As you can see, both Asian men and women choose I'm simple as their go-to self-description. Contrast this to black men's I am cool and Latinos' I'm a funny guy. It's also interesting that Asian men very often mention their specific heritage (taiwan, korea, singapore, vietnam, china) while Asian women don't.

OkTrends Racial Stereotype #3

Combing through these lists, you can see the different ways women use cosmetics:

  • White women show off their eyes (mascara is #5 on their list).
  • Black women show off their lips (lip gloss, #7).
  • Latinas show off both (mascara, #18 / lip gloss, #22).
  • Asian women, however, show off their practicality (lip balm, #48).
. . .

So far, I've gone through racial groups in order of their prominence on OkCupid. For brevity (I know this is the internet), I'll present the remaining lists without foolish commentary. You can click any of the links to reveal them inline.

Stuff Indians like...
Stuff Middle Easterners like...
Stuff Pacific Islanders like...

Sidenote: reading level

Since we were parsing all this text anyway, we thought it would be cool to do some basic reading-level analysis on what people had written about themselves. We used the Coleman-Liau Index, and when we partitioned the essays by the race of the writers, we found this:

Before anyone gets too charged-up about this, we also ran reading level by religion and found this:

Is there a Comic Sans version of the Bible? There really should be. We subdivided this chart further, by how serious each person was about their beliefs:

Note that for each of the faith-based belief systems I've listed, the people who are the least serious about them write at the highest level. On the other hand, the people who are most serious about not having faith (i.e. the "very serious" agnostics and atheists) score higher than any religious groups.

. . .

We'll be revisiting race later this month, with a statistical investigation of interracial dating, and we're almost finished with the article on (bi-)sexuality we promised last time. Thanks for reading, everyone.

Till next time,

923 Responses to “The REAL ‘Stuff White People Like’”

  1. Elle says:

    My profile is always a work in progress but I went through the keywords list and I have just as much in common with the Latina and Asian women as I do with my own demographic (White women).

  2. bakerboy9 says:

    I didn’t enjoy this stereotyping, because I am “white” and I am not proud of the list of things that white people supposedly like.. I am not a butt-rocker, I don’t watch tv or sports, and I don’t say “fucking” all the time, bro. And my religion is a combination of all of the above, because they are all connected.

  3. A says:

    Great article! You should do something like this but for nations. I would lve to see the difference between Canada, USA, Uk, Austrailia, etc

  4. Molybdenum says:

    Hahaha, this is excellent.
    Not that I follow them or anything, but I think it’d be amusing to see statistics based on our horoscope signs. :P At first I thought it was just coincidence, but I really do get matched with an overwhelming number of Cancers for some reason. Maybe guys who know their horoscope sign are just doomed to real life dating failure..? ;>.>

  5. Dan says:

    Really interesting… I have to say though that the thing that shows up at the top of the screen when you get to the end of the article scared the shit out of me. That’s probably an exaggeration but it was pretty unexpected.

  6. Wesley Kobylak says:

    “A Comic Sans version of the Bible” was brilliant! I joined okcupid because it was free. I stay for the fun! You people are crazy by any soicio-ethno-religious standard.

  7. Bill Caudle says:

    If you are really interested in how different races and socio-economic groups interface with each other I highly recommend Sex in America by Laumann. This sampled the largest cross section of people of any survey and has startling evidence of how little groups interface with each other.

    OK has balls to publish their results, very brave in the current U.S. environment.

  8. Janell Cannady says:

    Ha! If only factoring my intrests, I’d be in the White male category.

  9. ow says:

    As a black person who relates to basically none of the stuff I’m “supposed” to. I’m shocked and startled. Also wondering if there is any way to sort for context. Like are black guys just meglomaniacally stating that they are cool or is it a dialect things that says “I am cool with staying in or with hanging with your friends.”

    Are all the black ladies really into soul food. Or do they say things like “I’m not one of those black chics who’s into soul food?”

  10. UnholyGospel says:

    @ bakerboy9 says:

    You did mention bro. Hence, you are white, bro.

  11. Afrodino says:

    Hahaha, the witty banter was a good way to alleviate the somewhat [extremely] volatile nature of the subject. Very good article, reposting this on FB. Thanks for sharing.

  12. SemanticTom says:

    Most interesting statistics, keep it up!

  13. KitFisticuffs says:

    All else aside, Heinlein is neither dystopic nor macho, and I’m pretty impressed by his prominence on the list of “things white people like.”

  14. Lemmy B. says:

    I feel really strong that the word “racial” is out of place in modern times.
    Ii would be far more comfortable to write “ethnicity.”
    In biology, the word was taken out of the vocabulary for good reasons: It has no referent whatsoever, i.e “race” means nothing, biologically.
    The word has no denotation any longer, just a heavy burden of connotations.
    So why persist in using it when discussing social matters?

  15. Zareth says:

    Crud. I don’t fit into any of those stereotypes. Can I request a “world” or “Earthling” option? ^_^

  16. Lynne97030 says:

    Apparently I have nothing in common with other white women…could that be because I filled out my profile truthfully rather than created something I thought men would like? Baseball teams? Car races? Mascara?

  17. Emily says:

    I’m white and I DON’T like most of those things

  18. Stephen says:

    A very interesting collection of data. I enjoyed the article. :D

  19. Kevin says:

    I’m a white guy and found the article to say nothing good about white men. We’re just that bad? Either it’s “fucking” true, or it’s “fucking” misleading. But it IS “fucking” , qoute, qoute, “fucking” racist. Why would you post such a thing?

    The only thing I liked about “fucking” it, is they at least talk highly about black women.

    “fucking” thankyou.

    I normally say the word “fucking” about 10 times a year, considering I don’t normally “fucking” cuss.
    I’m laughing in the backgound for how many times I used that word.

  20. Eldar says:

    People will play right into the hands of statistics: Asians will laud you for using the Coleman-Liau Index, whites will agree about sports and fuckin’, women will concede to mascara, and blacks will nod silently to “I am cool”.

    Awesome study.

  21. ssslng says:

    You guys rock!! The data analysis opportunities are endless….

  22. Keith Jackson says:

    I was just trying to play along- pic the best pic of the two: The white girl pointing at the PBR, or the asian girl. And I love asian girls. LOL

  23. Phill Provance says:

    As a professional writer I’d like to know more about this Coleman-Liau Index. According to Wikipedia, the test’s methodology dictates that the longer the sentence and more esoteric the vocabulary, the more “sophisticated” the author. However, as anyone who’s studied writing will tell you, actually the opposite holds true: Brevity, clarity and concision indicate a greater skill level or, at least, more practice time.

    In principle, it seems, the Coleman-Liau methodology would preference scientific writing, whose conventions are run-on compound-complex sentences, passive voice and overuse of the genitive case. All these conventions are faux-pas in any other form of writing (unless, of course, you’re William Faulkner).

    To be sure, “sophistication”–which is defined by Dictionary.com as “(of a person, ideas, tastes, manners, etc.) altered by education, experience, etc., so as to be worldly-wise; not naive: a sophisticated young socialite; the sophisticated eye of a journalist” (though, indeed, this detail is probably beside the point of the argument at hand)–is within the powers of any professional scribe, be he or she mauve, albino or purple, but truth be told, any writer with a relatively high level of training will necessarily eschew such a style because the density of such a text will obscure his or her meaning unnecessarily and make deciphering even the most elementary concept from a block of text as frustrating for his or her readers as I am sure anyone who has waded through this stylistically atrocious sentence currently is.

    What I think, then, is that this methodology for testing “sophistication” is flawed. What the concept really goes to show is no more than what the tag lists do: Certain ethnic groups and religious backgrounds seem overwhelmingly preoccupied with portraying themselves as engaged in certain professions and/or having a certain education level. Also, I would suggest that WASPs enjoy a higher level of education in composition. This would seem in accordance with what we know to be true about racial and ethnic inequality in the U.S., right?

    Alternatively it could suggest something about intention: Perhaps some ethnic and religious groups attempt to write to the lowest common denominator, while others attempt to impress a select few. This could lead to conclusions concerning ethnicity and faith in America–the status of the American dream and community-wide attitudes. Some questions this brings to mind for me are: Are WASPs smugger than other ethnicities and therefore try less to impress? Do they seek less-educated mates? How many of each sex per ethnicity is represented on OKCupid? Are there more WASP males or females? Are there more black males or females, etc.? If there are more WASP males, does this mean culturally that white men want less-intelligent mates? Why do atheists write in a “more sophisticated style”? Could a “less sophisticated” style simply indicate Protestant austerity? Could “more sophisticated” atheists be revealing some amount of insecurity in needing to impress with large, dense blocks of text?

    Also I’d like to know if maybe people are either consciously or unconsciously using these tags to create false images of themselves based on stereotypes of their ethnicities and religious preferences as portrayed in the media by sexually desirable actors and actresses. Are we who we are because that’s the way we are, or are we playing roles so others will respond to our mostly nebulous selves in a way we desire?

    I don’t mean to offend anyone by pointing this out. And I realize the post is terribly ironic insomuch as it’s making broad generalizations. I was just a little perturbed that it painted my ethnicity as a bunch of illiterates. And, after looking into it, I wanted to point out how this methodology might be flawed for anyone who was taking that point too seriously. (I mean, wouldn’t it then mean that several folks who won the Nobel Prize for literature were actually literary morons and that Strunk and White were clueless?)

    P.S.: Who listens to “Van Fucking Halen”? Gee willikers, Wally, I think my head’s about to pop off!

  24. Aubrey (toasterkat) says:

    I have almost nothing in common with my specified race. Though my percentage of commonality to any specified race is about the same.

    Maybe I’m an alien?

  25. jsa says:

    The comments in here are almost more amusing than the article! Thanks to OKC for keeping us laughing!

  26. Martini009 says:

    Something wrong with the White People List… there’s no “The Princess Bride”. Practically every profile I see here mentions or references that movie/book somehow. Ok ok.. maybe that says something about me. But I really think “The Fucking Princess Bride” or “The Princess Fucking Bride” should make the list. Or maybe “The Fucking Shrieking Eels” or “The Cliffs of Fucking Insanity”. (BTW, nice litmus test. It works.)

    Glad to see Heinlein made the list. Oh, so that’s! how you spell “Coen brothers”. WTF is “soundgarden”?

  27. RT says:

    what’s up with all the pacific islander guys loving “serendipity,” “the hulk,” gummy bears and the movie (500) days of summer? haha – makes no sense.

  28. brosephmcmurphy says:

    I was just thinking that your results may have a flaw. The sample was taken from a dating site, so the ppl on there respectfully need a lil help geting a date. and there seemed to be alot less white prodistants and alot more athiest and black wemon. so maybe white prodistants get dates easer and black wemon and athiest have a really hard time.

  29. sc'Que? says:

    STUFF BLACK/WHITE/ASIAN PEOPLE LIKE… WHERE? I’ve noticed no particular set of controls as to where these stereotypes apply. Is this North America or worldwide? Just curious.

  30. Fred says:

    Perhaps Protestants and Catholics with higher I Q’s are less likely to reveal if they have strong faith, as they recognize the current tide of faith bashing by the media, current culture, some gay groups, and even among Christians, where a passing interest in God seems acceptable, but strong faith may be equated to something being wrong with a person (as taught by the media).

    Whereas, Atheists have chosen independence from Religion, are proud of that, and have nothing to fear. And, I’m guessing, independence and IQ are related.

    Also, intelligence often stands in the way of blind faith, as educated men are taught to analyze everything; to understand, and model it, prior to acceptance as the truth.
    Experiencing God at a higher level of faith requires humility, and letting go of control and disbelief, and submission to something not understood, before experiencing truth.

    Also, college educated have usually attended universities which are predominantly biased against Christian religion,

    Many scholars and scientists and other intelligent men were opposed to faith in God, until later in life when they recanted and embraced Christianity or Judaism.
    Faith level may relate to the ages of your survey participants.

    Fred

  31. Fred says:

    I’m Caucasian, and I prefer Sashimi. I usually say I like Sushi, because Sashimi is considered Sushi, and most people don’t know what Sashimi is. In fact, most think sushi means sushi rolls, which are actually an American invention.

    Sushi Nigri is the name of a piece of raw fish on top of a finger of rice.

    Incidentally, once when I was responding to a Chinese girl, that: “I’m white”, she responded, puzzled: “I’m white people”. I don’t think that that is atypical that Chinese would select “white” on a questionnaire. (White “people” is what she said, because a color can not be a noun in Chinese language)

    Fred

  32. Burge says:

    It would be interesting to know the number of samples you have for each race breakdown, and each religion breakdown. Being white and from the USA, i assume everyone on the internet is. Therefore I call into question things like the “not serious” buddhist writing at a higher grade level than buddhist counterparts.

    Also, is there a geographical breakdown, for example, does the city or area play more than does race? After all, where i’m from, I’ve never seen the words “i’m a country girl”.

  33. Jonathan says:

    Sweet! I knew I was really Latino on the inside :)

  34. si says:

    What about Sikhs?

  35. jason says:

    while interesting, these metrics actually mean virtually nothing considering how the sample size isn’t really clearly defined. Yeah it’s OKcupid users… but what does that mean? It’s not “Stuff White People Like” it’s “Stuff Some White People On a Specific Website of A Specific Socio-Economic and Cultural level in a Particular Part of the Country Like”

    OKCupid’s sample isn’t indicative of a cross section of America. it’s only indicative of a very specific subcategory of internet users.

    Some OKCupid metrics and research is interesting. Especially their metrics on how people report their physical characteristics, the ways and frequency that people of particular races communicate with each other on their platform… those offer interesting clues to how young people interact with each other online and the ways in which social forces alter their behavior in this public form. But they really need to do a better job of contextualizing.

  36. Not a Racial Stereotype says:

    I hate that this “study” is designed to discover and bring attention to racial stereotypes. They don’t mention the percentage of people that actually mention those common words, which I’m guessing is pretty low.

    Statistics are like bikinis: what they reveal is interesting. What they conceal is essential.

    There also seems to be a huge error in the commentary. “black women’s is the only one to explicitly include someone of another race: Justin Timberlake.” The “Asians” list includes Jason Mraz and the “Latinos” list includes Alicia Keys.

  37. Justin says:

    I think it is important to note that these trends are for okcupid users not the population as a whole. The vast majority of which reside in the US. The fact that Indians, Asians, etc score so high on your writing test is because there is really no way for unskilled (uneducated) persons to enter the US legally. Anyway I just think it should be more prominently noted that these are trends based on okcupid users because in your descriptions it seems to be implied that they can be applied to the population as a whole and they certainly cannot. I would love to see some of these scores broken down by self described education level. Additionally, self described location vs ip address location of last x logons.

  38. Lewrence says:

    It just goes to show that the more we think we are as an individaul, the more our kin fold pulls us back into reality. It’s ok to have trends based on nationality/race. It’s part of who we are as people. I’d believe the bad part of this is when people start to rebuff the information because they don’t like what they see of their race. Don’t discredit the statistics, just be aware of what you may contribute to it. If you look at your profile objectively and see you have any of these words/phrases in it, then you maybe of the norm rather the opposite. Nothing wrong with fitting into your races. Awareness is the first step to recognizing what seperates us as humans and what also brings us together. Besdies, if you really have an issue with the stats, then you may want to look into the mirror before critizing the results.

  39. Robelto says:

    This analysis definitely does not compass all Whites, Blacks, Indians, etc. It has to be an “American” thing. Most Whites, Blacks, Mulattoes, Indians, etc worldwide do not fit those criteria s. This research is just for Americans and those raised here in the culture.

  40. Alec Dubro says:

    If it’s on the Internet, it must be true.

  41. Cecilia says:

    Found this highly entertaining! Only caution is lumping all blacks into one category. African Americans have one culture, and, irrespective of country origin, Africans have another, Caribbean blacks quite another.

  42. tauni says:

    This was an entertaining read! Do more, do more!!!

  43. Indian Dad says:

    Only Indian women seem to mention “Social Justice” as a passion. If I had to do it over I’d be dating you … (again!)

  44. Kiki says:

    Hey can I get an Excel copy of the breakdown of the self-description terms? I’d love to make a reverse Flash game that predicts your ethnicity/gender by what you like! Also, do you have any breakdowns available by age/generation? and sexuality?

  45. 6SweetP! says:

    This was nicely done and hysterical. I love the comparison of religions and writing proficiency, particularly by including agnostics and atheists…brilliant! Humor on OK Cupid is one of the reasons I enjoy staying with your site!

  46. Eleanor says:

    First of all: stop hating on the Red Sox. I’m a white girl, but I was born in Boston and I don’t wear the pink B hats, so you can all take a hike. I’m also pretty sure the only time being a Sox fan has helped me at all romantically was with a very cute Dominican (read: black and latino) boy, back when Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez were the stars of the team. That being said, I also dated a biracial Yankees fan and love the song “Empire State of Mind” (feat. Alicia Keys), despite admiring references to those pinstriped bastards, so I suppose I can pat self on back for being ‘not typical.’

    Some interesting correspondences between male and female samples of various races or cultures or what have you:

    Pacific Islanders of both genders were apparently the only ones to mention “chivalry.”

    On a similar note, the Latina Fearfulness Syndrome is probably code that they are accepting of machismo and are down to have kickboxery Latinos think they are “protecting” them.

    I think the religion part of this whole thing is irrelevant, distracting and tedious.

    Interestingly, basically none of the stuff that OKC lists as stuff white people like has any correspondence with the items listed on the blog of that name. Obviously a lot of the things on SWPL would never be self-reported (Divorce, or Standing Still at Concerts, for example), but a lot of them are potentially self-reported (Arrested Development, Farmers Markets etc.), so I think the reason for this is socio-economic.

    SWPL is not about white people, it’s about upper-middle-class educated people, who are socio-economically dominant and therefore essentially ‘invisible,’ because their way of life is a cultural default, like Times New Roman size 12 on a Word document. By listing these things as Stuff White People Like, the author shames white upper-middle-class educated people by pointing out the things they take for granted, and shames upper-middle-class educated people of other races by making them feel that they are trying to be white. At the level of working-class and lower-middle-class culture, different ethnic groups have more pronounced individual cultures, but as people climb economic ladders, they tend to gentrify and lose their cultural differences. For example, hipsters of all races and ethnicities tend to dress and act the same and go to more or less the same shows, because they are from one class: the ruling class.

    Therefore, although OkC is predominantly middle-class and white, the upper-middle class “core” culture which is adopted in modified form by upper-middle-class people of other ethnic groups is largely eliminated by redundancy across races. Hence, the statistical findings of white peoples’ interests skew working-class and lower-middle class, with the exception of some things that are entirely unacceptable to people of other races (this category includes golf and surprisingly does not include Nickelback).

    My two cents.

  47. Mitch says:

    Love the logic of the people who say this stuff isn’t true because they don’t fall into any of the categories. Some people just think the entire world revolves around them I suppose.

  48. Dyllon says:

    People seem to be overlooking the most depressing thing about all of this (other than the unfortunate stereotyping): apparently the average literacy level on this site is below a 9th grade level. Now that is sad.

  49. Doug says:

    What, no heat chart of race vs religion for writing level? Since you talked about religion vs race in your word cloud analysis, it’d be interesting to see if there’s trends between White and Black Protestants, White and Latin Catholics, Black and Asian and Middle Eastern Muslims, etc.

  50. isaac says:

    Dan, it probably is exaggerated… I can not believe that atheist are only between 9th and 10th grade…. nor can I believe that Christians have even reached a middle school level of comprehension.