Facebook is analyzing who you’re dating—and it’s probably someone from the same religion

Here comes the bride.
Here comes the bride.
Image: AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen
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The data scientists at Facebook have a vast trove to explore, and for the week ahead of Valentine’s Day they’re focusing their all-seeing gaze on the world of romance and, in the first installment, how it intersects with religion. The bottom line is that people are very unlikely to date, much less marry, people who are of a different religion—even in some of the world’s most religiously diverse countries.

Take the United Kingdom, which is 40% Protestant, 17% Catholic, 15% atheist and 11% Muslim: if religion played no role, the odds suggest that only about one in five relationships would be between people of the same religion. The actual figure is 73%. In even more religiously diverse countries like Singapore and Taiwan, more than 90% of people are in relationships with people they might meet at their mosque, temple, or church.

Not all religions are equally likely to mix. In the United States, Mormons and Sikhs are the most likely to stay within their religions—making up some 90% of those groups’ relationships. Jews, despite making up a larger part of the population (and therefore having more same-religion options) are much more likely to date and marry outside their faith. And regardless of religion—or lack thereof—people are much more likely to date someone from another group than they are to marry that person.

Image: Facebook

Facebook study author Mike Develin does note a possible selection bias that may be skewing the numbers: their study uses people’s self-identified religious statuses on Facebook, and those who broadcast their beliefs may be more devout, and therefore less likely to intermarry.

One religious group stands out for its willingness to intermarry: the adherents of Jediism, which is based on the teachings of the Jedi Knights in the Star Wars movies. Develin notes: “Jedi have the highest likelihood of intermarriage—it is hard to find someone with compatible midichlorians. Although considering that Jedi comprise only 0.15% of the population, it is still a rather impressive use of the Force that 13.2% of Jedi manage to find another Jedi to marry.”