For their study, economics professors Josue Ortega at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom and Philipp Hergovich at the University of Vienna in Austria examined how online dating has changed the racial diversity of society.
“Understanding the evolution of interracial marriage is an important problem, for intermarriage is widely considered a measure of social distance in our societies,” the authors told MIT Technology Review.
They created a simulated model network of men and women of different racial backgrounds in which everyone wants to marry a person of the opposite sex, but can only marry someone with whom they have a connection.
The model is a reflection of society, which Ortega and Hergovich said is essentially “a web of interlinked nodes.”
According to the professors, most people are connected to close friends and family (and some others) with about 100 nodes. And changing the network, like building new highways, can completely change how the network functions, they said.
“Our model predicts nearly complete racial integration upon the emergence of online dating, even if the number of partners that individuals meet from newly formed ties is small,” Ortega and Hergovich told MIT Technology Review.
Since the 1967 Loving v. Virginia U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized marriage across racial lines, intermarriage has increased steadily, according to the Pew Research Center.
In 2015, Pew found that 1 in 6 American newlyweds (17 percent) married a person of a different race or ethnicity. In 1967, only 3 percent did.
“It is intriguing that shortly after the introduction of the first dating websites in 1995, like Match.com, the percentage of new marriages created by interracial couples increased rapidly,” they said.
But it’s possible that, as MIT Technology Review noted, the reduction in the percentage of white Americans was a contributing factor in the rise of interracial marriages in the U.S.