Sociology Department Colloquium: Elizabeth Bruch
Please join us for a colloquium being given by Elizabeth E. Bruch, Associate Professor in Sociology and Complex Systems at the University of Michigan.
Competition in Online Dating Markets
The idea that mate pursuit unfolds in a market is the conceptual foundation for most social science studies of romantic pairings. This idea traces back to Gary Becker who began his classic 1974 Theory of Marriage by saying that “since men and women compete as they seek mates, a market in marriages can be presumed to exist.” But despite the centrality of competition to dating markets, competition has not been studied directly. Rather, empirical scholarship focuses on the preferences of men and women for partners and how these preferences translate into differences in desirability. Competition in the dating market is not about who desires whom, but who successfully can compete for the attention of desirable partners.
This paper presents a novel framework for studying competition in dating markets and applies it to online dating data for New York. We show that who is most competitive in the dating market differs from who is most desirable. Our framework also produces several counterintuitive insights. For example, when looking at who competes with whom, we show that—despite widely documented patterns of homophily by race—men and women of all races compete primarily with whites. When looking at the stiffness of competition (i.e., who faces the most competitors), we find that disadvantaged groups often end up in the most competitive races. In explaining these patterns, we gain a better understanding of online dating markets.