What Makes You Click? Mate Preferences and Matching Outcomes in Online Dating
63 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2006
Date Written: February 2006
This paper uses a novel data set obtained from an online dating service to draw inferences on mate preferences and to investigate the role played by these preferences in determining match outcomes and sorting patterns. The empirical analysis is based on a detailed record of the site users' attributes and their partner search, which allows us to estimate a rich preference specification that takes into account a large number of partner characteristics. Our revealed preference estimates complement many previous studies that are based on survey methods. In addition, we provide evidence on mate preferences that people might not truthfully reveal in a survey, in particular regarding race preferences. In order to examine the quantitative importance of the estimated preferences in the formation of matches, we simulate match outcomes using the Gale-Shapley algorithm and examine the resulting correlations in mate attributes. The Gale-Shapley algorithm predicts the online sorting patterns well. Therefore, the match outcomes in this online dating market appear to be approximately efficient in the Gale-Shapley sense. Using the Gale-Shapley algorithm, we also find that we can predict sorting patterns in actual marriages if we exclude the unobservable utility component in our preference specification when simulating match outcomes. One possible explanation for this finding suggests that search frictions play a role in the formation of marriages.
JEL Classification: J1, C78
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation