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And so I started online dating, and immediately, as an economist, I saw this was a market like so many others.
The parallels between the dating market and the labor market are so overwhelming, I couldn’t help but notice that there was so much economics going on in the process.
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.
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$e airs every Thursday on the PBS News Hour.
Last year, economics correspondent Paul Solman and producer Lee Koromvokis spoke with labor economist Paul Oyer, author of the book “Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Economics I Learned from Online Dating.” It turns out, the dating pool isn’t that different from any other market, and a number of economic principles can readily be applied to online dating. — Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Paul Oyer: So I found myself back in the dating market in the fall of 2010, and since I’d last been on the market, I’d become an economist, and online dating had arisen.
So eventually, you’re no longer separated and the problem solves itself, whereas if you have a problem like you’ve been on the site for years and years, people might assume you’re a lemon who can’t find a relationship. Lee Koromvokis: So that would be like a house that’s been on the market too long?
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.
Paul Solman: Just listening to you right now, I was wondering if that was an example of Akerlof’s “market for lemons” problem. Statistical discrimination is always closely related to adverse selection, or the so-called Akerlof’s lemons problem.There are many other examples in online dating where that idea applies as well, and the nice thing about being separated is, while that signals you might be a lemon, unlike many other signals, this one passes with time.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.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.
If it had dragged on for years and years, it would have gotten really tiresome.