Economics correspondent Paul Solman and Making Sen$e producer Lee Koromvokis spoke with labor economist Paul Oyer, author of the book “Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Economics I Learned from Online Dating.” Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters/Illustration Editor’s Note: With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we decided to revisit a piece Making Sen$e did on the world of online dating. Making Sen$e airs every Thursday on the PBS News Hour.
I eventually ended up meeting somebody who I’ve been very happy with for about two and a half years now.The ending of my personal story is, I think, a great indicator of the importance of picking the right market. We work a hundred yards apart, and we had many friends in common.We lived in Princeton at the same time, but we’d never met each other. As I honestly needed to, I put on my profile that I was separated, because my divorce wasn’t final yet.And it was only when we went to this marketplace together, which in our case was JDate, that we finally got to know each other. And I suggested that I was newly single and ready to look for another relationship.They couldn’t find a job for a while, and then it becomes a fulfilling prophecy.
Employers see you’ve been out of work for a year, and they make an assumption that you’re a lemon, when in fact, you just had bad luck.Paul Solman: I want to quote a line from Bob Frank’s 1988 book, “Passions Within Reason.” He writes, “People who have participated in dating services are indeed easier to meet, just as the advertisements say, but signaling theory says that, on the average, they are less worth meeting.” Paul Oyer: The online dating market had a hard time getting up and going.It had a hard time getting critical mass, because there was an adverse selection problem initially.Well, from an economist’s perspective, I was ignoring what we call “statistical discrimination.” And so, people see that you’re separated, and they assume a lot more than just that.I just thought, “I’m separated, I’m happy, I’m ready to look for a new relationship,” but a lot of people assume if you’re separated, you’re either not really — that you may go back to your former spouse — or that you’re an emotional wreck, that you’re just getting over the breakup of your marriage and so forth.So naively just saying, “Hey, I’m ready for a new relationship,” or whatever I wrote in my profile, I got a lot of notices from women saying things like, “You look like the type of person I would like to date, but I don’t date people until they’re further away from their past relationship.” So that’s one mistake.