What Determines Who You Date?



We all have a list of qualities we want in a perfect mate. For me, I want someone who is Japanese-American, can speak Japanese well, graduated from an Ivy League university, around my height, around my age, kind, independent, has a slim but not skinny physique, and loves to eat unhealthy food. Will my next date encompass all those traits? Probably not.

A recent research study looked at speed dating and concluded that while individual preferences influence who we date, it’s actually the opportunities that have more sway on who we date. That makes sense, since we can only date and fall in love with people who are around us. Online dating can increase the pool from which we can choose, but we can’t date someone who is halfway across the country or fall in love with them (usually).

“We find that both women and men equally value physical attributes, such as age and weight, and that there is positive sorting along age, height, and education. The role of individual preferences, however, is outplayed by that of opportunities. Along some attributes (such as occupation, height and smoking) opportunities explain almost all the variation in demand. “

According to the book The Logic of Life it’s a staggering 98%! Ninety-eight percent of who we date depends on “market conditions.” Dating someone tall, short, fat, thin, professional, clerical, educated, or uneducated are all more than nine-tenths governed by what’s offered that night. In the battle between the cynics and the romantics, the cynics win hands down.

Who you propose a date to depends mostly on who happens to be sitting in front of you.

Source: “Can Anyone Be “The” One? Evidence on Mate Selection from Speed Dating” from IZA Discussion Papers

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