This week in slightly depressing confirmations that the online world is not so unlike the offline one: dating site OKCupid tracked the behavior of nearly 1 million users and found that race is correlated with whether people reply.

“Despite what you might’ve heard from the Obama campaign and organic cereal commercials, racism is alive and well,” wrote OKCupid’s Christian Rudder.

Some findings:

  • Among females, black women are the most likely to respond. But they get the fewest replies when they initiate conversations.
  • Among men, white guys are the most likely to receive replies, but are the least likely to respond.

Below are a few charts from the study. Green colors show a higher-than-normal response rate. Red colors show a lower-than-normal response rate. Overall, you get a higher reply rate if you’re a woman (duh), so that’s why the bottom square for female-initiated conversations is greener than the top one.

OKCupid’s findings are reminiscent of a well-known economics paper from 2003 when University of Chicago’s Marianne Bertrand and Harvard University’s Sendhil Mullainathan sent out identical resumes to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago, but with different names. White-sounding names like Emily were 50 percent more likely to get replies than black-sounding names like Jamal.

There are probably lots of natural race- and gender-related experiments that are happening in online communities around tech start-ups. It would be interesting to see if any other companies (cough, Facebook) start examining their data for these as well.

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.