, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 393-427
Date: 20 May 2010

What makes you click?—Mate preferences in online dating

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We estimate mate preferences using a novel data set from an online dating service. The data set contains detailed information on user attributes and the decision to contact a potential mate after viewing his or her profile. This decision provides the basis for our preference estimation approach. A potential problem arises if the site users strategically shade their true preferences. We provide a simple test and a bias correction method for strategic behavior. The main findings are (i) There is no evidence for strategic behavior. (ii) Men and women have a strong preference for similarity along many (but not all) attributes. (iii) In particular, the site users display strong same-race preferences. Race preferences do not differ across users with different age, income, or education levels in the case of women, and differ only slightly in the case of men. For men, but not for women, the revealed same-race preferences correspond to the same-race preference stated in the users’ profile. (iv) There are gender differences in mate preferences; in particular, women have a stronger preference than men for income over physical attributes.

Note that previous versions of this paper (“What Makes You Click?—Mate Preferences and Matching Outcomes in Online Dating”) were circulated between 2004 and 2006. Any previously reported results not contained in this paper or in the companion piece Hitsch et al. (2010) did not prove to be robust and were dropped from the final paper version.