Abstract Asian American men and women have been largely neglected in previous studies of romantic relationship formation and status. We use logistic regression to model current involvement of men and women separately and find, with the exception of Filipino men, Asian men are significantly less likely than white men to be currently involved with a romantic partner, even after controlling for a wide array of characteristics. Our results suggest that the racial hierarchy framework best explains lower likelihood of involvement among Asian American men.
Studies that focus on population-based samples are a case in point. While a growing number of studies utilizing these samples have included romantic relationships along with co-residential unions, they have predominately focused on the racial mix of partners in relationships Blackwell and Lichter ; Sassler and Joyner Studies highlighting differences in patterns of romantic involvement among racial and ethnic groups have focused largely on adolescents e.
Prior studies on the relationship patterns of young adults have not given adequate attention to how partnering differs across race and ethnic groups Sassler Especially troubling is the fact that the vast majority of these studies fail to distinguish the relationship patterns of Asian American men and women. In a recent exception, Brown, Van Hook, and Glick compared non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and Asians ages 20 to 34 with respect to current co-residential involvement and found that black men and women had the lowest levels of co-residential involvement Asians on the other hand, displayed the largest gender gap in co-residential involvement; just The gender gap in involvement among Asians is consistent with research highlighting the emasculation of Asian American men as well studies that document their marginalization from internet mate markets.
For example, using a non-random sample of opposite-sex daters on Yahoo personals, Feliciano, Robnett, and Komaie found that Asian American men were systematically excluded from by women from all racial and ethnic groups including Asian American women. The focus on co-residential unions not only neglects those in romantic and sexual relationships, but also those who are excluded from romantic involvement.
We fill an important gap in research on young adult relationships by focusing on the experiences of Asian American men relative to patterns of romantic involvement for all major racial, ethnic, and gender groups simultaneously. Data from the most recent i. We first review and synthesize competing frameworks concerning factors that promote and impede relationship involvement among young adults.
We focus our attention on the implications of these frameworks for Asian Americans, a group that is generally neglected by studies focusing on union formation and status. We then consider the role that individual characteristics play in race-ethnic gaps among men and women using logistic regression models. Importantly, our study is among the first to focus on any relationship involvement among a national sample of young adults across multiple racial and ethnic groups and by gender in examining patterns of exclusion from the dating market.
According to these frameworks, aspects of partnering not only differ by period of the life course, but also across race and ethnic groups Sassler We ask the question, why are some adults at this stage of the life course not currently partnered?
Further, we add to the literature by considering a third explanation that emphasizes the role of racial hierarchies in shaping romantic involvement. Structural explanations suggest that the ability to form a romantic relationship depends on how individual-level sociodemographic and other traits e.
It may be that those who are not currently involved simply lack both economic and physical resources necessary to form a romantic relationship. In addition, structural explanations highlight the role that imbalances in local sex ratios e.
In contrast, cultural explanations suggest that the norms and values of some racial and ethnic groups e. Critical race perspectives explicitly argue that racial hierarchies define desirability in ways e.
We elaborate on all three of these perspectives below to develop expectations on racial and ethnic patterns of romantic involvement among men and women, but focus on Asian Americans. Structural Explanations Individual Characteristics Structural frameworks highlight the role of individual characteristics in explaining the formation of romantic relationships. The assumption of this framework is that individuals seek partners with the most desirable characteristics and the characteristics desired in a mate are gendered.
For example, physical attractiveness has long been valued in women while economic resources have traditionally been valued in men Sassler and Joyner As individuals who are most desirable pair off with each other, those who are less desirable end up with partners who are comparable in terms of desirability Becker ; England et al.
Studies continue to show that employment and earnings increase the likelihood of marriage, especially among men e. Assuming that higher socioeconomic attainment of men increases their desirability as potential mates, we would expect Asian American men to have better prospects of involvement than their white, black, or Hispanic male counterparts.
After all, they have much higher levels of educational attainment and income. Still, there is considerable heterogeneity in the educational attainment of Asians, with South Asians, Chinese, and Koreans faring better than whites and those from Cambodia and Laos doing worse Kao and Thompson Prior studies have examined the role of physical characteristics in mate selection, but they have most heavily focused on associations between partner characteristics in marriage e.
A recent spate of studies, however, has explored how physical characteristics are linked to current romantic involvement using population-based samples e. Generally speaking, these studies suggest that physical attractiveness is more strongly linked to involvement for women than for men. Research also reveals a preference for the male partner to be taller than the female partner in a relationship and emphasizes that average height varies with ethnicity but is correlated across genders within the racial groups.
The fact that Asians are, on average, shorter than whites and blacks, may account for some of the disadvantage in the dating market faced by Asian American men Belot and Fidrmuc Cultural Explanations A cultural framework suggests that some racial and ethnic groups, particularly those composed of a high proportion of immigrants, may have distinctive patterns of involvement due to their family values, such an emphasis on educational achievement Glick, Ruf, Goldscheider and White, ; Schneider and Lee , cultural views about dating and premarital sexual behavior Espiritu and a heightened sense of obligation to the family Smith Research that relies on a cultural framework to explain Asian patterns of union formation stress the influence of family ties that places strong constraint on obedience to parents which may limit premarital sexual behavior and cohabitation Chan Moreover, the control of parents over dating ought to affect women more than men, so to inhibit the relationship formation of Asian American women more than Asian American men.
Similarly, researchers argue that close ties to parents may distinguish patterns of relationship involvement for Hispanics. For instance, Valenzuela suggests that familism which is proxied by the time spent with family and the importance of helping family members may be more important to Hispanic families than non-Hispanic families. Given their stronger family ties, we would expect that both Asian and Hispanic young adults would delay romantic partnering in comparison to white youth. In other words, if immigrant Asian parents or Hispanic parents exercised greater control over their children, they would exercise greater restrictions on women than men.
At the same time, cultural explanations of whether a young adult chooses to be in a romantic relationship may become muddied given the disparity in cultural traditions among Asians and Hispanics.
It is widely recognized that Hispanic and Asian ethnic groups differ markedly with respect to immigration histories and socioeconomic position Kao, Vaquera, and Goyette, ; Bean and Tienda , and also with respect to family formation patterns. For example, Puerto Ricans exhibit lower rates of marriage than any other racial or ethnic group in the US Landale and Fennelly compared with those of Cuban origin that have higher rates of marriage than other groups Landale, Oropesa, and Bradatan In addition, we know very little about heterogeneity within the Asian American population.
Further complicating these explanations, cultural factors may interact with structural factors to produce different patterns of relationship involvement for youth from minority families Wilson Schneider and Lee suggest that East Asians see their educational achievement in terms of what it means for the family rather than as an indicator of individual success, and are socialized to think in terms of filial piety, putting their duties to their parents above all else.
Indeed, Cheng et al. However, this research is limited because of a focus on early union formation prior to age 25 , a narrow definition of relationship involvement i. While prior research suggests that co-residential involvement is delayed by educational pursuits Thornton, Axinn, Teachman , it is unknown whether the formation of any romantic relationship is also delayed or whether this may vary by race and ethnicity.
Given that adolescent romantic relationships are an important precursor of union formation in early adulthood Raley, Crissey, and Muller ; Thornton, Axinn, and Xie , we may expect racial and ethnic patterns of adult romantic partnerships to mirror adolescent patterns. Using data from the Add Health, Carver, Joyner, and Udry document how black, white, Hispanic, and Asian youth most of who are between the ages of 12 and 18 differ with respect to romantic involvement in the eighteen months prior to the interview.
They find that Asians are less likely to report romantic involvement than whites, blacks, and Hispanics, who have roughly similar levels of involvement in adolescence. More recent studies using the Add Health have investigated the link between adolescent romantic involvement and union formation behaviors in early adulthood e.
Yet, this research is limited because it focuses on relatively early union formation using the third wave of the Add Health when most respondents were between the ages of 18 and 25 , and it does not examine variations in outcomes by race and ethnicity for an exception see Cheng et al.
It is less apparent whether the race and ethnic patterns of relationship involvement among adults will mirror those among adolescents. Racial Hierarchies Critical race perspectives focus on how certain race and gender groups are favored or marginalized in the mate market. In other words, the ability of an individual to enter into a romantic relationship may be hampered by set of perceived or ascribed differences attributed to their racial or ethnic group Burton et al.
Studies have suggested that unflattering stereotypical media depictions of nonwhites have contributed to a racial hierarchy in many aspects of society, including mate preferences Bonilla-Silva ; Larson Other research, however, highlights the preferences of black women, noting they hold the least favorable attitudes toward selecting a partner of a different race Davis and Smith ; Todd, McKinney, Harris, Chadderton and Small and are the least likely to intermarry or date across race because of cultural influences and lack of trust toward non-Hispanic whites Childs Research on dating preferences provides additional evidence of this racial hierarchy.
In addition, men of all different racial groups are most likely to exclude black women than any other women Feliciano, Robnett and Komaie This gendered gap in dating preferences and experience is not only reflective of a racial hierarchy but is also mirrored in existing patterns of interracial romantic relationships. For example, prior research has documented large gender differences in interracial relationships formation among blacks and Asians. Specifically, research finds that black women and Asian men are much less likely than their same-race counterparts i.
Due to sample size restrictions, the report did not specify the dating patterns of Asian respondents. Prior research also suggests that physical attributes such as height for men and attractiveness for women will be associated with higher levels of partnering.
Second, cultural explanations for race and ethnic differences in partnering suggest that Asian Americans will be less likely to form romantic partnerships due to their own cultural preferences. The same argument could be applied to Latinos. Further, these perspectives suggest that the delays into romantic unions as adolescents will continue into early adulthood for Asian American men and women. Finally, a racial hierarchy explanation suggests that Asian American men will be less likely than Asian American women to be partnered, as Asian American men face gendered cultural stereotypes barring them from entry into romantic partnerships.
Add Health is a longitudinal school-based study. Using rosters from each school, Add Health selected a nationally representative sample of 20, adolescents in grades seven to twelve to participate in the first in-home interview. The first in-home interview was conducted between April and December of By the time of the fourth in-home interview, respondents were between the ages of 24 and Importantly, Add Health used state-of-the-art survey methods to identify the romantic and sexual involvement of respondents, as well as their sexual orientation i.
The sample is restricted to 5, males and 5, females. We began with 14, respondents who completed the Wave I and IV in-home interviews and had variables used to adjust for design effects e. Excluding respondents whose biological sex classification marked by the interviewer differed across Waves I and IV reduced the sample to 14, Limiting the sample to respondents with information on key variables e.
We used survey procedures in Stata to take into account the complex design of Add Health; these procedures apply a post-stratification sample weight and identify participants geographically clustered within the same school or region of the country.
Variables Our analyses utilize an indicator of different-sex partnering based on the Wave IV interview. We construct our dependent variable as a dichotomous indicator of any romantic partnering i. We divide respondents into mutually exclusive categories on the basis of their answers to questions on race and Hispanic descent at the Wave I interview: Hispanic of any race , and non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic Asian, and non-Hispanic white the reference category.
Non-Hispanic respondents who report more than one race were asked what category that best described their race and classified accordingly. We also include an indicator of nativity status foreign born vs US born. Where possible, we break Asian and Hispanic respondents into ethnic subgroups. Using data from the first interview, we also construct measures of family structure living with both biological or adoptive parents and parental socioeconomic status SES ; the parental SES variable, which ranges from one to ten, and is based on the occupation and education of parents Bearman and Moody Our parental SES variable draws information from the parent and in-school questionnaires when missing information is missing from the in-home questionnaire.
We also include in our analyses measures typically included in studies of cohabiting and marital status or timing: Educational attainment is measured as a single indicator of completion of a four-year college degree by age