Elizabeth Bruch, Univ. of Michigan
Title: How (and Why) Online Dating Experiences Differ across American Cities
ABSTRACT: Both academia and popular culture recognize that romantic relationships are pursued within a market. The everyday language people use to talk about mate search-"he's a hot commodity"; "she's out of your league"- implies scarcity, competition, and a hierarchy of desirability. Classic work in economics and mathematics provide formal models of how mate preferences aggregate within marriage or dating markets. But we know little about whether, how, and why courtship and dating experiences differ across cities. This study uses rich activity data from a large, U.S. online dating site to explore how population composition interacts with mate-seeking behavior to shape men and women's romantic outcomes. Building on insights from psychology and behavioral ecology, I focus on two distinct classes of behavior: choice and competition. I find that local markets shape dating experiences both directly, by constraining the type and number of people one is exposed to, and indirectly, through the dynamic interplay between human behavior and experience.