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Tracking the trends of online dating in major US Cities

August 08, 2018

People tend to pursue mates that are "out of their league," according to a new study that analyzed social interactions between users of a large online dating website in four major U.S. cities. Both men and women pursued partners about 25% more "desirable" than themselves. Also, men and women used different messaging strategies when reaching out to a candidate date according to the desirability of their potential partner. The authors say their study sheds new light on the dynamics of dating markets, which have so far been difficult to evaluate. Online dating is now one of the most common way that people find partners. As a result, online dating platforms provide a broad and detailed view of the pursuit of mates. Here, Elizabeth E. Bruch and M.E.J. Newman analyzed demographics and messaging patterns among heterosexual users in four large U.S. cities: New York, Boston, Chicago and Seattle, during January 2014. The authors measured each user's "desirability" by using the PageRank algorithm, which is utilized by modern web search engines, and which rates a user as more desirable if other desirable people message them. Across all four markets, Bruch and Newman found a consistent hierarchy of desirability, including age, education, gender, and race/ethnicity. Additionally, both men and women tended to pursue partners about 25% more desirable than they themselves were rated to be, and hardly any users contacted partners who were significantly less desirable. People employed different messaging strategies depending on the desirability of their intended partners; both men and women tended to write substantially longer messages to more desirable partners.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

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