Date of Award

2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Sociology

First Advisor

Dorothy E. Roberts

Second Advisor

Chenoa Flippen

Abstract

Intimate romantic relationship formation, including marriage, remains a significant cultural aspect of life in the United States despite the overall decline in marriage rates. Marriage remains popular among the college educated as they are more likely to be married than those without a college degree. Among the college-educated however, marriage among heterosexuals remains stratified by race/ethnicity. College-educated Black women, unlike their non-Black counterparts, are less likely to see marital returns to their degree. This study seeks to understand how race, gender, and technology intersect to contribute ethno-racial differences in intimate romantic relationship formation among this population. Drawing on interviews with 111 heterosexual Asian, Black, Latina, and white college-educated women between the ages of 25 and 33, I find that respondents experience three kinds of barriers in their romantic partner search: locational barriers; adverse interactions with men on and off dating technology; and gendered initiation courtship scripts. Women’s experiences of these barriers sometimes differed by their ethno-racial background; other times the intersection of women’s ethno-racial background and gender informed and bolstered similarities across groups. Based on these findings, I argue that women of color, especially Black women, face the greatest number of barriers in the romantic partner search and this may contribute to their being the least likely to be married compared to Asian, Latina, and white college-educated women. Moreover, I conclude that although dating technology has the potential to alleviate the barriers women face in their search for a romantic partner, it also reifies and perpetuates racial and gender inequality. This study not only broadens understandings of how college-educated ethno-racial minorities continue to experience racial inequality, but also expands explorations of how race, gender, and technology intersect to influence everyday life, including intimate romantic relationship formation.

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