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Can Anyone Be 'the' One? Evidence on Mate Selection from Speed Dating

39 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2006  

Michèle Belot

University of Oxford - Nuffield College

Marco Francesconi

University of Essex; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Date Written: October 2006


Marriage data show a strong degree of positive assortative mating along a variety of attributes. But since marriage is an equilibrium outcome, it is unclear whether positive sorting is the result of preferences rather than opportunities. We assess the relative importance of preferences and opportunities in dating behaviour, using unique data from a large commercial speed dating agency. While the speed dating design gives us a direct observation of individual preferences, the random allocation of participants across events generates an exogenous source of variation in opportunities and allows us to identify the role of opportunities separately from that of preferences. We find that both women and men equally value physical attributes, such as age and weight, and that there is positive sorting along age, height, and education. The role of individual preferences, however, is outplayed by that of opportunities. Along some attributes (such as occupation, height and smoking) opportunities explain almost all the estimated variation in demand. Along other attributes (such as age), the role of preferences is more substantial, but never dominant. Despite this, preferences have a part when we observe a match, i.e., when two individuals propose to one another.

Keywords: mate selection, assortative mating, marriage market, speed dating, randomized experiments

JEL Classification: D1, J1

Suggested Citation

Belot, Michèle and Francesconi, Marco, Can Anyone Be 'the' One? Evidence on Mate Selection from Speed Dating (October 2006). IZA Discussion Paper No. 2377. Available at SSRN:

Michèle V. K. Belot (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Nuffield College ( email )

New Road
Oxford, OX1 1NF
United Kingdom

Marco Francesconi

University of Essex ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom
+44 1206 873 534 (Phone)
+44 1206 873 151 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

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