What’s unclear is how much of this tendency online is really a result of preference and how much is due to the websites feeding you potential partners that are of the same race as you. These websites use algorithms to try to figure out who you like. And if they assume you’re going to prefer people of your own race, they might feed you a steady diet of potential matches of the same race. Since the algorithms tend to be proprietary – they don’t share them – we don’t know whether this is skewing the data.
One is that people are more likely to date someone of another religion. I think that’s because you can’t tell what someone’s religion is from their picture.
In my data, about 22 percent of straight couples met online. For gay couples, it’s about 67 percent. Online is tremendously more efficient for gays and lesbians. And that’s because it’s much harder for them to identify potential partners offline.
What about socioeconomic class? Are people more likely to partner with people of different socioeconomic backgrounds when they meet online?
On online dating, the picture marks you with gender and race pretty clearly, but religion is something that you have to dig through to figure out
In my data, it’s pretty much the same. The preference for partners of similar socioeconomic and education backgrounds has always been there, but it’s never been an overwhelmingly strong preference. It’s never been the case that people who married someone of a greater or lesser education level were ostracized in the way other attributes might have been.
From what I can tell, there’s a little bit of a tendency for people – especially women – to prefer people who claim to make a lot of money. But the truth is that most profiles don’t report income, and in the income ranges where most people live there isn’t that much of a difference in profile attractiveness. Whereas in the actual attractiveness of their photo, there is. So social class turns out to be kind of a secondary factor.
I want to bring back the jam analogy, if that’s okay. When there are more jams to choose from, do people end up trying more jams than they would otherwise before figuring out which flavor they like best? In other words, are people dating several people at once more often now because of online dating?
Relationships are different from jam in that when you get involved with somebody, they have feelings too, they have a claim on you more than the jam does, right? The jam doesn’t care if you try another jam next week, but if you form a relationship with somebody, they would or at least might care.
The other big difference is that same-sex couples are much more likely to meet their partner online
I haven’t seen that the rise of this technology has made people more skittish about commitment. One of the things that we know about relationships in the United States, contrary, I think, to what many people would guess, is that the divorce rate has been going down for a while. They have been going down since the early 1990s, when they hit their peak. So during the Internet era, during the phone app and online dating era, it’s not as if people are leaving their marriages and going back out into the dating market. Even people who are regular online dating users, even people who are not looking to settle down, recognize that being in the constant churn finding someone new is hard work.