Dating economics

Using a combination of basic economic principles, demographics, game theory, and number crunching, Jon Birger explains America’s curiously lopsided dating and marriage market among single, college-educated, looking-for-a-partner women.

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He’s the author of the book, Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Economics I Learned from Online Dating. Can you just maybe describe what the concept is and how you’ve applied it to this idea of looking for a life partner?

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

So when I go to the grocery store, if I spend a lot of time scanning the shelves, I could be doing other things.

And if I want to buy a new house and I go from open house to open house, I could be doing other things.

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.So if we just go into some market where everything is commodity, I don’t know, stocks, or bonds, or something like that, we don’t need to do much searching.There’s no human interaction the Internet can’t make even more alienating, and that goes double for finding a mate.But perhaps one way to make online dating less fraught is to treat it with the kind of clinical detachment that allows humans to becalm their misleading emotions and succeed at related enterprises, from stock trading to hiring the best employees.With Valentine’s Day near, it’s time to bring on the economists.“Dating markets are a good example of matching markets,” says Alvin Roth, who won a Nobel Prize in...

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