Dating economics

Dawoon Kang, co-founder of Coffee Meets Bagel, says “the reason women haven’t been fully excited about using dating services is because there wasn’t one that understood how women want to date.” Sarah Mick, Chief Creative Officer at Bumble, says her app wants to end “digital cat-calling,” and to subtly give women more power in their dating interactions.In their efforts, both apps employ strategies that a game theorist would approve of.Some of those qualities might be age or attractiveness - and some are financial."Indeed, just go on popular dating sites such as Match.com, and one of the criteria for winnowing down potential matches is annual income.You can look for someone who makes ,000 a year, or ,000, or 0,000. Well, in one study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, which crunched data from a popular Chinese online-dating website, male profiles with the highest income levels got 10 times more visits than the lowest.

PAUL OYER: Well, in everyday life, we’re always going around making decisions and some of those decisions are very costly.

The classic example is overfishing: each individual fisherman is tempted to harvest the ocean just a little bit more, and improve his current catch, but if all the fishermen do so then the piscine population plummets and everyone suffers in the long run.

In the case of online dating, the “shared resource” is women users’ attention: if every man “overfishes” then the women’s attention (and patience) runs out, and the women abandon the app altogether.

However, we invest in those search costs because it’s worth it, because we get something we really want.

And so when we think about a place where investing and getting what you really want is particularly valuable, it seems like the market for a life partner is hard to beat.

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