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. kd says:

    Could “Soul Food” also be the movie or the tv series? Just a thought.

  2. Keith Arsenault says:

    As a very serious Catholic, I’m inclined to be offended at the poor writing skills of my brethren, but you can’t argue with statistics.

    I blame a third-variable. Namely, that Latinos are overwhelmingly Catholic and many of them speak English secondarily. Atheists, conversely, tend to be American-born and have the English-first-language advantage.

  3. HamMI48 says:

    Wow! No-wonder as a white guy trying to date non-white women I’m not getting anywhere!

  4. Lesbin Laden says:

    I especially enjoy the intelligence/religious (or lack there of) graph !!!!! Fascinating! Oh, and the only key word in my profile is my religion. I don’t even fit into the white girl stereotype! I’m terribly disappointed to be …um.. er.. never mind…

  5. robertocr says:

    ” “A Comic Sans version of the Bible” was brilliant! I joined okcupid because it was free. I stay for the fun! ” – Wesley Kobylak
    exactly my thoughts! I love these analysis, pure genious!

  6. DavidChameleon says:

    The Middle East and India are in Asia.

    Fricking Americans.

  7. Carlos says:

    I would really have loved to find out what if any differences between men and women among races but also among sexuality (gay or lesbians)

  8. takocos says:

    As an American Indian, I was all, “Yay! Someone finally included us in an ethnic study!”

    But as it said “BollyWood”, I’m guessing that we’re all lumped in with the White or Hispanic chicks again. Probably white, because Spanish is still a secondary language on many a Rez.

  9. folan pedro says:

    you guys are really crazy i swear

  10. Nick says:

    Great article. One thing worth noting: since this data comes from essays posted on a dating site, the significant factor influencing the choice of various themes/phrases must be the writers’ perception of what the opposite sex finds attractive … or so we assume. Unless a large number of people just pay a monthly fee to tell the world they dig Megadeath. While this helps explain a number of results (i.e. Red Sox & Nascar for white women, “I’m cool” for black guys, “I’m a simple girl/guy” for Asians), it adds a level of mystery to others. Particularly white men … seriously guys, Tom Clancy and NOFX are not going to get you laid. Ever. And to black women: I’m sorry, but The Color Purple is like a giant red flag signaling a tedious, self-righteous first date ahead. The most likable offshoot of all this has got to be the disjunction between Indian men and women. Given the preponderance of love for cricket amongst Indian men, it’s pretty great that women won’t even give it the time of day. I suspect this may be the root cause of arranged marriages…

  11. Ti. Marius Romulus says:

    One thing that I noticed is the lack of age data. I think that it’s highly important to understand the age range of the sample studied lest the results make false indications. What brought it to my mind is the writing proficiency data, where I suspect that the rise of text language has skewed the general population’s ability to eloquently use English. Unfortunately, I think that many people will take this data and use it as ‘proof’ that Atheists are more intelligent or more educated than Christians (Protestant or Catholic) because there is no comment on the actual language form in the profiles to differentiate what is simply text speak and what is actually an obvious lack of writing skill. The age range of the sample population could have serious consequences for the results.

    Another consideration is the sample size: it affects the actual averages for the population under consideration such that a large sample is going to flatten where a small sample can be boosted by a few good numbers. This is something else that was not commented upon in the article, and it is relevant to know what the percentage of the samples comprised each ethnic group studied.

  12. comment? says:

    So, the Middle East is in Asia? I always thought Egypt was in Africa. Silly me.

  13. KJ says:

    (apologies from the grammar use, this comes from an informal response to a friend and i felt like including it here)

    ooo this is fun, it’s like a big giant sociological field day. ok one thing: using okcupid as a reference to racially slanted social preferences i can see in the way that they are looking for how people present themselves. yet those individuals are identifying things that are recognizable by everyone, not necessarily their own individual opinions, and they are doing this to attract a mate (who they may want from the same racial group). this has WAY more to do with dating and presentation of the self on the internet than actually clarifying racial differences. it’s all built on stereotyopes, which the people themselves are continuing because they may thing this will attract someone for those reasons.

    the fact that the article opens with, “what makes a culture unique?” is a ridiculous notion that they answer this question in the article and it is based on internet presentations of the self.

    oh and the fact that for lack of space they just list all the other ethnicities with no comment…AGH!!!!! (i suppose it’s good they even listed them in the first place). and yes, asian should be clarified as east asian, or southeast asian, considering Indians are asian and actually middle easterners are counted as white for US stats purposes.

    and they even did a profile sophistication based on race! plus it has to be slanted since uninteresting people often use dating sites…ok not entirely true, but think about it.

    and i don’t like baseball, never read picoult (i’m too busy reading world literature), i can’t remember the last time i went boating, and i wear mascara because…i don’t know i’m white and my eyelashes are blonde.

    and of they even titled it “stuff white people like” and it refers to more than one race…AHHHH!!

    this is awfully written, just as my anaylsis lacks solidified arguments, this does too.

  14. John Mathew says:

    Real interesting study. I am a bit shocked by the position of the athiests on the graph.

  15. CapeKitty says:

    The #1 phrase I’ve read in (white) men’s profiles is “easy-going”, followed closely by “down-to-earth”. Funny that many of these relaxed men are also looking for “no drama”…

  16. Asusena says:

    I might be wrong, but I have an impression that the majority of the users of this site are from USA and if I am not wrong the protestants are one of the biggest religious group in USA (although I guess it’s quite heterogeneous).
    So, my point is that it is quite probable that the protestant users come from all levels of education but some other religious group might not be so equally represented and that the more educated are more drawn to this site (language barrier for one thing).

    The article is very interesting, I just thought that it should have been better highlighted that all the findings apply for the studied group in question (i.e. the users of OK site and they (we) are specific group), and not to the whole population.
    Apart from the findings that the “very serious agnostics”(that I am) have a relatively higher writing proficiency level. That’s for sure true for the whole population, :)

  17. Brooklyn Funk Essentials says:

    “Go drown in a lake of Diet Coke, fucker.”

  18. Paul Lomax says:

    A brilliant piece of correlative data mining!

    Can I ask what technologies you used, eg Hadoop and/or Hive?

  19. Mike Marcus says:

    I would be really interested to see more analysis of your data set plotting religiosity against personality traits such as compassion, morality, etc.

  20. Mo says:

    Goodness — everyone likes Alicia Keys!

    Good work, very interesting to read.

  21. Tom says:

    Thanks for keeping us laughing. It’s a great article.

    Even though: the “white” people mentioned here are obviously mostly US-American. Things seem to be very different in Europe. I doubt “red sox” or “golfing” is appealing to most white Europeans.

    I found most European people on the site to be intelligent, open to using new technologies and gentle. Maybe because: idiots are not good in describing themselves in a foreign language.

  22. John Achor says:

    So the smarter you are, the less likely you are to have religious faith?

    Oh wait, that’s not news.

  23. Jeff says:

    You have to love the irony of the author’s name!

  24. Thomas Blackthorn says:

    i am black and don’t fit in the blacks like catagory

    I like: megadeth, the big lebowski, dropkick murphys, hitchhikers guide (and the other following books), coen brothers, burn notice, (early) bad religion ..the new bad religions sucks, lock stock as well as snatch and Rocknrolla, world war z and the zombie suvival guide, apocalypse now, but don’t like most sports. I am an atheist. So no god fearing I do like boondocks it’s funny.

  25. asiandude123 says:

    where’s the math section? asians/indians would rock it.

  26. lsmr says:

    First: this whole study assumes that the users of OK CUPID are normal, well adjusted people indicative of their races/sexes as a whole. This is simply not the case- while online dating has become much more popular recently, IT IS NOT THE NORM. Bottom line. I’m not belittling those that turn to the Web to find love, but MOST people DO NOT DO THIS.

    Additionally, I quite thoroughly enjoyed the obviously racist slant of your article. I would cite examples, but am tired and lazy and anyone can see the near 90 degree slant by simply comparing the “conclusions” at the end of each race’s section.

  27. Ed says:

    That was a great (and funny) article. Thanks!

  28. Emma says:

    Readability is NOT the same thing as writing proficiency! In general, it’s better than your work be MORE readable, not LESS. So misleading! Being “readable” is a GOOD thing for a dating profile.

  29. Maren says:

    Statistical data compilation has made my morning! Such interesting results. Thank you for putting this together. – A white atheist female

  30. Marc B says:

    OkCupid – as mostly all dating sites – is full of SPAM profiles. How did you make sure that you analyzed only “real” profiles?

  31. Jack X. says:

    Great read!

    I thoroughly enjoyed the racy conclusions which have me wondering which is more badass-sounding: “Diet fucking Coke” or “Coca fucking Cola”. Non-serious Buddhists having the highest ranking reading and writing proficiency levels is also rather amusing. It would have been very interesting to see this breakdown specifically applied to the “You should message me if” portion of users’ profiles; if even just to see if “not a pervert” occurs more or less often than “like what you see” for women. ;)

    Amazing job, Christian and friends. Keep it up!

  32. Maggie says:

    This is… problematic. It bothers me.

  33. Anne says:

    Ahh, nice to see okcupid reinforcing those gender sterotypes with their “uniquely feminine” comment. Next up; how women can’t drive like men can, are only interested in Harlequin novels and, spend too much time in the bathroom fiddling with their hair.

    – a nerdy female motorcyclist

  34. Nick says:

    Yaaaaaaaayyyyy Atheists! =P

  35. :P says:

    i tried to be offended…i really did…but i can only laugh. The study is based on a rather limited sample so it cant speak to the preferences of anyone but those included in the sample. It is not really a sample that can be used to extrapolate to the whole population by the simple fact that it is not random and only a a random sample of the target groups can really do that. So, i conclude that this can only be a joke. As far as the literacy of those using the site is concerned, no one takes this site seriously enough to actually use grammar, punctuation, or correct spelling. This is especially true since we are using this site as a medium for speaking with our peers, not our superiors. Therefore, those results likely do not reflect the true nature of our literacy. – My Thoughts-

  36. Rinnie says:

    Interesting that the Asians are rated as having ‘intelligent’ profiles with the prevalence of ‘coz’ and ‘pls’ in the females’.

  37. mythered says:

    Oh for the love of god……it’s only statistics. How can you call this blog “What White People Like”? I’ll tell you what I don’t like……The title of this article. I read this out of curiosity because someone had said that they found the blog fascinating.

    There will always be similarities & biased within races and cultures. People raised in Iran usually speak Farsi, People from Africa generally have a greater fear of snakes because most snakes in Africa are lethal, and many Japanese people eat sashimi because it’s available almost everywhere. The ocean isn’t far from anywhere in Japan, which makes fish produce VERY FRESH & more suitable to eat raw.

    All I have to say is that I’m white, was raised protestant, I can write, I’ve dated an Iranian and African man, I don’t speak Farsi, I’m not afraid of snakes, and I love

  38. Marcelo says:

    Very interesting and funny stuff. I’m a little dissapointed on the Latino Education and Sophistication of Profile percentage but i would have to igree with “Keith Arsenault” that mention something about English being a second language for Latinos. I guess the chart are right since i’m one the latino members. Thank you for the data.

  39. fugue137 says:

    The biggest factor in the C-L index is sentence length. My profile includes both regions dominated by very short “sentences” (lists of interests and thoughts separated by periods, eg. what are you doing with your life?”) and regions in which the lists (eg. “favourite books, movies, food”) are comma-delimited. Both of those outlier forms seem to crop up frequently in OkC profiles, and is likely to be the dominant factor in their reading level measure. I wonder if Protestants admire the righteous finality of periods while Buddhists prefer the flow of commas…?

    On a nigh-unrelated note, I’d be curious to see “discrepancy between writing level and reported age” rather than just “writing level.”

  40. sarah says:

    Y’all should run down reading sophistication by GENDER
    In general reading sophistication implies not the intelligence of the writer, but their expectations of the reader.
    Time Magazine is written at an 8th grade level not because they aren’t good at reading and writing, but because they want to attract and include readers who might not be so erudite. Similarly, it’s equally possible that very serious protestants are writing in a very simple easy to read way not because they are simple, but they are trying to reach out to partners who might not have a dictionary on hand, and atheists might not be smarter, but just less willing to talk down to potential partners.

    I appreciate that someone else out there likes Law & Order without adding any letters to it! Maybe I should stick with black women from now on. Or do they mean the general concept of justice?

  41. robb2058 says:

    I have to say , this is so fun to read! Thanks for doing it, without the PC whining, that would interfere with it anywhere else.
    I love it , that I can raise my IQ significantly, by giving up my faith, and belief in God. Or is it already too late? I became a Christian late in life, and I may be getting stupider every day. This post is probably a good indication.
    Thanks again! This site rocks!

  42. Balance says:

    Don’t read too much into this folks…if there’s one thing to be learned about statistics, it’s that anything can be reported in such a way so as to present possible “support” to an already biased hypothesis.

    Yes you could say that there is a correlation between writing ability and faith, however all this study shows is that:

    *** Those people who wrote a well-penned profile chose to express publicly their non-belief (or indecision), regarding the major pillars of faith. ***

    Is it not possible, that many who DO have strong faith and who are ALSO very literate, simply chose not to check that box re: religion on their profile?
    Yes, of course it is.

    Is it not possible that some who are strongly religious simply did not care to proofread their profile or put much thought into creating one, thus scoring lower on the “writing analysis” – however, these same people may still hold a very HIGH IQ?
    Yes, of course it is.

    Is it not possible that only those who have a STRONG OPINION one way or another regarding religion chose to express it publicly on a site such as this, yet those who did not simply left that box blank, thus altering remarkably, the results of this, uh, “study?”
    Yes, of course it is.

    See my point people?

    This is a very, ummmm, entertaining article; but please don’t use it to fortify or dismiss already-held notions you may or may not have about the world around you. You could very well be making a grave error.

  43. karen says:

    While I think the study itself was pretty cool, you should also do one on lesbians and gay men of differing cultures. Just sayin.

  44. Colin says:

    While I understand that it was what the statistics may have said, and that there are going to be outliers in any data set, I’m a very protestant and write very well, even by standards far better than those of a seventh grader.

    I find this deeply offensive.

    And I know LOTS of atheists who are collectively still as dumb as a post.

  45. Tamara says:

    This was absolutely brilliant. Your articles are always so unique, funny, and controversial enough to be interesting. Keep it up!

  46. Hisign says:

    Many Black and Latino young people prefer Not to use proper english in favor of more slang terms in a social setting. Abbreviations are not an not necessarily reflective of their education, but more their conversation style in social environments. The more proper your english sounds, the more uptight you appear to be.

  47. Just waying says:

    Apparently…everyone loves Alicia Keys!

  48. Brittany says:

    Lmao! Good article & very funny, I’m black but most of those things on the list aren’t on my page.
    I do mention God on my page though, I don’t like tall, dark and handsome, I like tall, white/latin/asian guys only though that’s what I can agree with lol. Everything else I don’t agree with, most of my info is all mixed up with a little bit of everything. Quite diverse if you ask me. With the religion statistics and comparisons i’m not at all surprised by this especially with the way society is and how people are thinking and living their lives. It is what it is, I’m not downing the way anyone thinks or what their beliefs are.

  49. Nia Jenkins says:

    According to this I’m part white guy, part white girl, part Latino and a lil latina…seems about right :D