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.
KeywordsMate preferences Dating Marriage
JEL ClassificationC78 J12
We thank Babur De los Santos, Chris Olivola, Tim Miller, and David Wood for their excellent research assistance. We are grateful to Elizabeth Bruch, Jean-Pierre Dubé, Eli Finkel, Emir Kamenica, Derek Neal, Peter Rossi, Betsey Stevenson, and Utku Ünver for comments and suggestions. Seminar participants at the 2006 AEA meetings, Boston College, the Caltech 2008 Matching Conference, the Choice Symposium in Estes Park, the Conference on Marriage and Matching at New York University 2006, the ELSE Laboratory Experiments and the Field (LEaF) Conference, Northwestern University, the 2007 SESP Preconference in Chicago, SITE 2007, the University of Pennsylvania, the 2004 QME Conference, UC Berkeley, UCLA, the University of Chicago, UCL, the University of Naples Federico II, the University of Toronto, Stanford GSB, and Yale University provided valuable comments. This research was supported by the Kilts Center of Marketing (Hitsch), a John M. Olin Junior Faculty Fellowship, and the National Science Foundation, SES-0449625 (Hortaçsu).
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