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Can Anyone be "The" One? Evidence on Mate Selection from Speed Dating

Listed author(s):
  • Belot, Michele
  • Francesconi, Marco

Marriage data show a strong degree of positive assortative mating along a variety of attributes. But since marriage is an equilibrium outcome, it is unclear whether positive sorting is the result of preferences rather than opportunities. We assess the relative importance of preferences and opportunities in dating behaviour, using unique data from a large commercial speed dating agency. While the speed dating design gives us a direct observation of individual preferences, the random allocation of participants across events generates an exogenous source of variation in opportunities and allows us to identify the role of opportunities separately from that of preferences. 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 estimated variation in demand. Along other attributes (such as age), the role of preferences is more substantial, but never dominant. Despite this, preferences have a part when we observe a match, i.e., when two individuals propose to one another.

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Paper provided by University of Essex, Department of Economics in its series Economics Discussion Papers with number 2594.

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Date of creation: 2006
Handle: RePEc:esx:essedp:2594
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  1. Robert Shimer & Lones Smith, 2000. "Assortative Matching and Search," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(2), pages 343-370, March.
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  3. Bergstrom, Theodore C & Bagnoli, Mark, 1993. "Courtship as a Waiting Game," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(1), pages 185-202, February.
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  7. Heidrun C. Hoppe & Benny Moldovanu & Aner Sela, 2009. "The Theory of Assortative Matching Based on Costly Signals," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 253-281.
  8. Lones Smith, 2006. "The Marriage Model with Search Frictions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(6), pages 1124-1146, December.
  9. Ken Burdett & Melvyn G. Coles, 1997. "Marriage and Class," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 141-168.
  10. Becker, Gary S, 1973. "A Theory of Marriage: Part I," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(4), pages 813-846, July-Aug..
  11. Raymond Fisman & Sheena S. Iyengar & Emir Kamenica & Itamar Simonson, 2006. "Gender Differences in Mate Selection: Evidence From a Speed Dating Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 673-697.
  12. Eugene Choo & Aloysius Siow, 2006. "Who Marries Whom and Why," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(1), pages 175-201, February.
  13. Micere Keels & Greg Duncan & Stefanie Deluca & Ruby Mendenhall & James Rosenbaum, 2005. "Fifteen years later: Can residential mobility programs provide a long-term escape from neighborhood segregation, crime, and poverty," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 42(1), pages 51-73, February.
  14. Pencavel, John, 1998. "Assortative Mating by Schooling and the Work Behavior of Wives and Husbands," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 326-329, May.
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