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. Patrick says:

    Life as whole is tough and not funny in my experience, thats not to say I don’t have a sense of humor, ( I’ve been tol dI’m pretty funny). Turns out when it comes to stero types we’re all pretty funny. I had a good giggle.

  2. california says:

    Keep in mind folks, this IS scientific, but it is only a cataloging of the words that self-identifying groups most often include in their profiles. It does not presume to come to conclusions about those groups, only shows what different groups write about themselves in profiles.

  3. Momodan says:

    Its quite obvious this is based on a minority of Asians. Tbh probably most from Taiwan, Korea and Japan. Basically the islands, or by the sea. Also very educated (as they all seem to be able to speak English). So these people probably all have a western, or semi-western hearts.

    This should be renamed to include “strictly to the western society” in its description.

  4. mykolaj mohammed pap says:

    this is easier than looking through older… more polyamory please! i wouldn’t have complete disdain for you white folk if you would throw in some snowy whitey whites like polygamists into the digital aggregate cement mixer as long as long as the two different suffixes after poly are not misused or misrepresented or misunderstood by the program i’m good, can’t wait… thanks

    wa alaykum-us-salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh

  5. turboliscious says:

    could you possibly be any more stereotypically racist????

  6. tomtom9 says:

    Ok ok. I’m white. And idc about there color right here is judging ppl. Easly wen u read this ohh white ppl seem up tight black ppl sound cool and u forgot to mention the fried chicken. The latinos are in to some crazy shit and the asians are geeks. Right there ur labeling everyones race with sterio types. Me I like everything from every race. Not no dam golfing but I like rock rap soul food is banging love colin greens. And I allso like some spanish music. And I think the asians are just smarter then everyone cuz they put there investments first. Same here. So streio typing isn’t anything to me. Just another way to seperate ppl. And so that prob. Ppl get jealous or what ever or raicest. I say fuck sterio types. Were all just 1 big ass family. Have u ever seen and asian rapper. Have u ever seen a stuck up black person. Have u ever seen a geeky white guy. Cuz I have. So don’t be up here saying ohh your white so u like van FUCKIN valen. I don’t. I’m white and I have black family members. Raised in the city or what white ppl would call it the ghetto. We all like what we like. It has nothing to do with color /race. Its about the person. You ever think why do u like (example) blue and ur friend chris like orange?????????????? We all have dif eyes that see things diferantly we all have differant taist buds to like differant foods,we all have differant ears to listen to differant music. Not the color of someones skin. This right here is BULL SHIT.

  7. David Damerell says:

    I can’t go through all these and see what proportion miss the point it’s statistics not opinion, but… it’s statistics, not opinion. Opinion is where you see a comment by one semi-literate white guy and conclude all white people are semi-literate. Still, please stop it – you’re making us look bad.

  8. Susan Leavenworth says:

    What about Native American folks? I realize the sample would probably be small, but it would certainly be interesting to see.

  9. Daniel says:

    This is a very none Empirical test.
    The Asian, Whites.Blacks,and Hispanics you have listed here are each a sub-category of the internet going online dating self identifying group of people in the world.
    The problem is you have used contact words to mark the results of a study on what people like. Instead you should have used the contact words to separate the sub groups of each group. Like white nerds and black nerds or white rockers and black rockers, ect..
    Then you have each group take a survey and and compare the likes and dislikes to the main category and look for similarities. The reason you have to do this is so that we can separate the real likes and dislikes from the identifiers that everyone uses to attract a mate on this site. for instance I might say I LIKE CATS when I really just do not dislike them since I know most women like cats more than dogs. that is not a like that is me trying to meet someone.

    But if you break things down a little more and I take a survey for the group:
    White male 24-30 nerd identified category and list it as such.

    which do you prefer to have in your household?

    A. Cats

    B. Dogs.

    C. Small pets i.e rodent or reptile.

    D. None.

    I am going to be inclined to pick C. small pets because I like rodents.

    I know I put I like Cats in my profile but remember I know that most women like cats.

    Being a person who likes rodents tips the scale a bit. And you are going to see many more diversions in the out come this way because of the sub-division. Once you have all the sub divided categories finished you then compare the likes and dislikes from them and you have a better result.

    Now you still have to take into account the lairs. People lie we know that. We all have or will in our life time. some people lie for fun others out of shame some to fit in.
    But we ALL do it. With profiles meant to attract one a mate we are inclined to lie more.
    We as humans will say what we think we want a mate to hear. We as races reinforce our own stereotypes because we think we need to. taking that into account you need to try and find the lie to truth ratio and consider that as well.

    Now homosexuality: Ooh Ahh Scary. GET OVER IT THIS IS SCIENCE.
    Homosexual people tend to identify differently some examples are the fruit the bear the bull dike and the girls girl. These are all types of people that might not fit with the norm. A girls girl is going to want to be with a women but still takes interest in (generally) female things, sometimes to the point of being overtly feminine to make a point. In the same vain is the Fruit ( forgive me my HomoBrethern I am not homophobic I just need target words) the Fruit is most commonly a man who takes sexual and romantic interest in other men but identifies as a women in taste and interest out side of men. often these men want a ” manly man” as there mate but will not share the same interest as them.

    Taking this in to consideration for each race and gender you then need to further define the sub-category into it’s straight gay or bi listing for each gender and race and then survey again you then compare that to the beginning results and with the results from the second survey compare the three sets of results and with a little fine math (not my thing) you can get something close to an approximation of what each race corresponded gender identified sexual oriented group likes as of this year.

    However. This can all change over night. people change, there likes and dislikes change. people can lose and gain faith. People can fall in love with someone they hate and hate someone they love.

    so remember that its all just chance in the end.

    Oh and don’t be racist its not cool.

    Please forgive me my spelling errors I have trouble in that category of writing.

  10. Kimberly says:

    Such fun ! This is the kinda stuff I researched in college. I would love to have access to your data set! The things I could do with it whooo hooo! Signed a hardcore Atheist! :)

  11. Zanderilicous says:

    I don’t see FIREARMS no where on the list! I love FIREARMS/GUNS! No, I am not a Republican!

  12. Peter Wone says:

    Oh how they squeal when truth is revealed.

    Probably the single biggest limitation of this study is the fact that the descriptions posted on dating sites are intended to arouse interest from the opposite gender. Black men claim to like soul food and to be cool because they think potential mates will be impressed by these qualities. Black women claim to like soul food for exactly the same reason. Both groups are probably projecting their own values, but since it seems to be mutual they’re both in luck – although it would be deliciously ironic if neither group liked soul food.

    Education level / religious fervour anti-correlation on the other hand is both telling and entertaining. Earlier comments only underscore the fact that arguing with idiots only makes both of you look silly.

  13. AC says:

    The religion vs writing level graph is interesting, and seems to loosely indicate that the less you believe, the higher your writing level. However, take note that the difference between the average protestant and the average atheist is only 1 grade, and both are below a 9th grade writing level. Basically, most people are dumb, regardless of religion. Cheers!

  14. Crimson says:

    I’m so disappointed in white people right now. Especially white women. Not a single thing I like is on there and not only that, other than “my red hair” and “thunderstorms, it’s shit I hate. Ugh!

  15. Roy says:

    I like white being with white and black being with black.End of story.

  16. Sage says:

    People claiming to be intelligent by refuting numbers with anecdotal evidence need to take some stats classes.

    OKC just listed some buzz words that are specific to various races. I’d say draw your own conclusions, but most of you appear to have heavy biases. Trying to defend your religion or put down another’s because of a graph about writing levels. Did you notice no group averaged above a ninth grade writing level?

    Ninth grade. High school freshman. A 14-15 year old. We all look like idiots from that average, even if atheists did edge closer to ninth grade writing than anyone else.

    I found this an interesting article. I’d love to go a bit deeper with these statistics, even.

  17. Precious Valentin says:

    Well, I must say that I am NOT surprised to have found that I didn’t belong to any of your groups.

    Why? Perhaps because though Black, I was not born and raised exclusively in America and therefore my wants, needs, desires and interests vary greatly from my American counterparts.

    Another factor that I feel is relevant is location, location, location! I’m in the Pac. N.W. and my interests reflect the typical laid back attitude of a state connected to, within 3 hours, both Canada and Oregon. I know nothing about inner city living, wants, dislikes or values.

    I’m also an Army Brat and colors do matter to me as an artistic medium when picking a mate: I like the contrast of light vs dark!

    I answered, I think, 150 questions on OK CUPID before I got bored and decided that if that could not find me a mate, then I was S.O.L.! And it turns out that indeed, I have found no one to meet MY specific requirement nor, obviously, me theirs. I have found a few who seem to be interested in the Jungle theory, but that game has played out.

    And before I end this, I would also point out that the biggest flaw that I have encountered is the Height/weight corruptions! Many people seem to have flawed mirrors or their mothers lied to them! In no country, or even star system, should “a little extra” be the equivalent to carrying around weight that equals a new born keg of Budweiser! Forget the head shots only, I wanna see the entire package!

    Please, update your criteria so that Cupid can shoot me in my ass!

    And to Peter Wone, not to be rude, but it’s clear and very apparent that you know next to nothing about Black people, even if you might possibly be one! Soul Food begins with what amounts to some mighty fine and tastily cooked foods that mainly incorporate ALL the food groups required! You see, if it had not been for Soul Food, our ancestors would have died out due to horribly poor nutrition. They learned to cook from the bounty of Mother Nature and the white man’s rejects and to make it taste damn good! That’s Soul Food 101 for you and you may try to make a few Black friends and stick your legs under a few of their tables! And Soul Food is not to be confused with inner city food. For REAL Soul Food, get thee to the South!

  18. imwhitebutlikeasians says:

    This is racist and stereotyping. Im white i dont cuss im a nerd that like computers, like the stereotyped asians. I like rap music and i am humorous. People have different traits of different races so this is crap.

  19. MAN OF KNOWLEDGE says:

    PEOPLE OF THE WORLD BEAR IN MIND THAT THIS IS JUST LIMITED TO THE GENERALITY OF THE AMERICAN POPULACE NOT ALL NOT TO TALK OF THE ENTIRE WORLD… BUT ITS TRUE…
    YOURS SINCERELY

  20. MadRooster says:

    Howdy, I think you should correlate this set of data with the article about replies by race. I’m a poor, but educated white male, and have dated several women of races other than my own, yet I feel that some of the statistical difference in attraction may be due to cultural taste. I am very attracted to black women physically, for example, but I am immediately repulsed by a profile that contains overt Christian declarations, there are many items of soul food that I find stomach-curdling, and I’m very repulsed by a taste for music that’s firmly in the mainstream (which seems to be across the board racially, but still cuts my set of options significantly). I’m also very repulsed by poor grammar or spelling; and by generic, stereotypical and flavorless profiles. I was quite chagrined to find even, that a grocer’s apostrophe showed up in the list of common keywords! To add to my annoyance, almost every single keyword in the white women’s list is a deal-killer for me, as are about 50% of the keywords in the other lists.

  21. David says:

    I find all these data fascinating, but I do think in the context in which these preferences are being stated, they have to be taken with a grain of salt. On another page, the site reveals that a large percentage of those who declare them selves to be bisexual in fact ONLY reply to members of the OPPOSITE sex. The theory apparently being that many of those who state that they are bi, do so because of some cachet they perceive the term to have. Similarly, it’s hard for me to believe that “The Red Sox” and “Nascar” share the top the lists of actual interests of most of the white women on here, along with “Jodi Picoult (WHO?) I suspect the 1st 2 of these are stated for the attracting effect they may have on WHITE MALE site users.

    But seriously, who the bloody hell is Jodi Picoult?

    Now, the fact that most white women adore “Baking” and “My Toes” should come as a surprise to no one who hasn’t spent their life in a discarded, jam-encrusted Ball jar…

  22. Johanna says:

    White men seem to be more “hands on DIY”-types. They love to mention sports and that they are capable of chopping wood. as a white woman I find that a turn-on. Other races seem too feminine to my taste. White women express their love and appreciation of nature by telling they love horseriding and thunderstorms. Our messages are subtle.

  23. karl says:

    In regards to the writing proficiency:
    And, this could be challenging to determine from users questions, but how many of the asians, indians, and middle easterners are employed under visas or have greencards or are 2nd generation? My reason for asking is that legal immigrants are often held to high standards to gain entry into the united states. Also, was income taken into account? Income I would associate with better education.