Friday, 1 July 2005

Let's Get Personal

Hal R. Varian writes in the New York Times on Günter J. Hitsch, Ali Hortaçsu, and Dan Ariely's research on online dating:
Start with the self-reported characteristics. There was a strong Lake Wobegon effect in the data, with only 1 percent of the population admitting to having "less than average" looks. Even so, only a third actually posted a photo. The reported weights of the women were substantially less than national averages and about 30 percent were blonde. The reported weights of the men were consistent with national averages and only about 12 percent were blond.

What are people looking for? The most important variable, for both men and women, is looks. Furthermore, posting a photo is a big help: women who post photos receive about twice as many e-mail messages as those who do not, even when they report that they have "average looks."

The stated goals for using the service make a big difference in how many e-mail messages are received. Men who are "hoping to start a long-term relationship" receive substantially more e-mail than those who are "just looking/curious." The worst thing a man can say is that he is "seeking a casual relationship," receiving 42 percent fewer e-mail messages than he would otherwise. A woman, by contrast, gets 17 percent more e-mail messages by reporting this goal.

The article mentioned that the actual paper, titled "What Makes You Click? An Empirical Analysis of Online Dating", could be found on Ali Hortaçsu's homepage. There's lots of interesting material in the paper (the idea of a "laboratory setting" to determine attractiveness is quite funny in my mind), particularly this one:
online dating sites do yield a matching environment conducive to sorting among their members. This allows us to conclude that observed sorting patterns among married couples are not solely due to institutional/search frictions encountered in the traditional channels they have met through.
Interesting. So people don't just date people as a function of their social circles? (i.e. you date someone with the same education level because you both are likely to go to the same schools, not because you prefer a certain level of education.) Or do they basically replicate the types when they go online dating?

Time to put all that into practice:
Single white male hoping to start a long-term relationship. Good looking. Loves long walks and snuggling up in bed. Photos available.

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