Monday, September 20, 2010

The REAL ‘Stuff White People Like’

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.

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.

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, but 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?

Visit the website and see the lists for the White, Black and Hispanics. You have to click on the female/male icon to pull up that gender's list.

What is missing is the growing and diverse hybrids -- people of mixed ethnicity. People of mixed parentage. Research into this group of people seemed to climax in the 90s, just in time for the global hybrid icon: Barak Obama to be elected President of the United States. Two movie action heroes also emerged in the 90s of mixed ethnicity. That is, Vin Diesel and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. When will it filter down to these type of sites?


Rudder, Christian. 2010. "The REAL ‘Stuff White People Like’". OK Trends. Posted: September 8, 2010. Available online:

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