in: Dating & Relationships

An Economic Perspective on Online Dating

These might seem an unlikely pair, but economics have more to do with online dating than at first glance.


Cost, in economics, is not always about money. Whenever you spend your time and energy on one thing, it is at the neglect of something else that your time and energy can be spent on. For the most part, this is how cost is evaluated.

When you are in the market for something that you want—like a house—you have to explore the market, often looking hard for the most appropriate fit. The cost, in this case, is search cost, and it is worth the investment when you obtain what you desire. So you will spend your time seeing many houses for the sake of finding your perfect abode.

As fine of an example as the housing market is for this case, a better one is the dating market. It is the quintessential market where getting exactly what you want is particularly valuable. Unlike the stock market, which is full of commodities that can be traded for each other and replaced, the dating market is unique in that there is no substitute for the ideal companion. Even when the right home is your goal, you can settle for one of a few solid candidates and live with your decision; this is not the case when dealing in love.

Dating has its costs.

Going out in society to find potential dates can be expensive and frustrating, but the online dating market has changed things a bit—it allows us short-cut access to meeting people who intrigue us. There is still cost involved in going through websites and profiles, but it takes some of the work out of the equation, and we invest that time in finding the right partner.

No system comes without issues, and the convenience of the online dating market causes some problems to arise. First of all, the process is more complicated than just selecting a person that interests you. There is mutual choosing involved. In other words, you are looking for someone who is going to reciprocate your interest and choose you in turn.

In this way, the dating market is similar to the job market. Searching for the ideal job can be compared to going on dates. From an economic standpoint, deciding that there is a more fitting person for you than the one you’re at dinner with is akin to not taking the first job offer you get. Deciding to be lonely for awhile and continuing to invest in finding the perfect companion can be compared to remaining unemployed while waiting for the best job opportunity.

The trick comes in signaling to your favorite candidate that you are particularly interested, so your intentions don’t get lost in the shuffle of the vast market.

Read about the economics of online dating in depth, and learn about signaling your true love here.

[image: via Bran Sorem on flickr]





About the Author:


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