Economics and Love: The Supply-Demand of Attraction

Economics and Love: The Supply-Demand of Attraction

Source: kongsky, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This article covers attraction and dating through the eyes of economic thinking; supply, demand, wealth, education, scarcity, race, and how to use it to help yourself.

I am reminded of a tale in the book ‘Nudge’; that no party is allowed to get more than 30% of the attendees from the Economics Department of the University, because economists are sure to ruin it. In that spirit, here is an article over-analysing behaviour, value, demand, and supply in dating and romance.

There is an idea that economics and economic thinking are purely mathematics and formulas, obsessed with exchange rates and taxes. But it’s not entirely true; to paraphrase economists Thomas Sowell (2014) and Oyer (2015), economics is simply the study of how to allocate scarce resources. A scarce resource is very simply any resource that is not infinite in supply; for example, food, housing, and in this article, relationships (or people to have them with).

Most of the general principles in this article can be applied elsewhere; for example, looking for work. Oyer (2015) tells of how in small towns, there is a single lawyer and so he is called for everything from wills, crimes, traffic, and suing each other. This is because the supply of lawyers is low, but the demand for lawyers is high. He makes all of the money, he gets all of the business. We can do this for love lives as well.

This article was inspired by a recent talk I attended at the Yale Centre in Beijing by economist Zilibotti on parenting and economics in his book “Love, Money, and Parenting” (review incoming), as well as many discussions on dating in general, I’ve written this article on dating.

I’m not the first to do so; Robin Hanson has also applied economic models to attractiveness, and like in this article, creates a model of attractiveness as a good (Tuckfield, 2019). Providing an economic model of dating is hardly a new concept; it is joked about in How I Met Your Mother by Barney Stinson, played by Neil Patrick Harris when discussing the trade-offs in dating people:

Source: How I Met Your Mother

Source: How I Met Your Mother

I’ll leave the basic graph above, but my point is that mathematical thought has always been applied to dating, and now we shall do so here.

Basic Model of Attractiveness to Available Relationships

So, here we have the usual supply and demand curve that we all know and love. I’ve keeping it a simple flat rate of attractiveness (more on that later) to keep the diagram simple. Let me introduce the variables involved:

PRICE: How attractive you have to be (attractive is a vague term; it can be humour, money, looks, educational level, thin or THICC, etc. Very simply, any positive trait that makes you more desirable as a partner).

QUANTITY: How many relationships are available at this level.

SUPPLY: How many people will be willing to date someone at this level of attractiveness.

DEMAND: How many people WANT someone this attractive to date.


We shall also measure PRICE from 1 to 10, using the usual international recognised ‘out of 10’ standard.

I shall explicitly say it here; this is not an article that tells you what is and is not attractive. Some people like virgins. Some people like experience. Some people only date within their race, or culture, or religion. Some people want to date the rich. Some people prefer to date within their socio-economic class.

I like Professor Oyer’s definition: potential partners in this market are differentiated goods; all potentially equally good, but different in differing qualities and valued differently by different people. Whereas goods are the same (like one box of Frosties is the same as the other) but “no two life partners are the same”. So what happens when there is a local population who is more attractive (for example, certain European countries are known for being attractive as a rule)? Or perhaps you simply run among the beautiful, handsome, and wealthy of society?

We would likely find that it becomes harder to find a date for the average person, as there are less unattractive people around, and thus people’s standards become higher. This means that an average person in an attractive community would have more difficulty finding a relationship, but will also require more effort/attractiveness to get a relationship, when compared to a normal population. As you are ‘the average person’, you may well find yourself below the dating standard, and have difficulty finding a relationship in this world.

The converse is also true:

When you live in an area of unattractive people, the average person will have more dates (being more attractive than the population), but the average quality of those dates will be lower as well, as there simply isn’t as many attractive people in the area, and people’s standards are lower. As you are ‘the average person’, you’ll find that you are above the average population in attractiveness, and so have an easier job dating when compared to the average local person.

In short, if you’d like to enjoy better dating, reduce your standards. We can discuss more of that later in the article.

 But My Ugly Friend Dated a Beautiful Person!

Congratulations! Our model already accepts that!  We’ve already stated that beauty is as the eye beholds it, so maybe your friend has other redeeming qualities. But even if they were completely hideous and can only be viewed through some kind of filter or protection, there is still some demand for them!

Let’s say your friend is a 2 out of 10 (and you really should think better of your friends, by the way), we find that there is a shortage of people willing to date him/her, as demand for relationships from the ‘2’ group outstrips the supply of relationships for a ‘2’. But there is still some demand! That means that there are ‘buyers’ who would be willing to date him/her; there is a supply of people who are willing to date ‘2’s for whatever reason they wish.

However, as you’ve likely noticed, there is a ‘shortage’ for people will to date ‘2’s, because every ‘2’ wants love, but not every lover wants a ‘2’. Your ugly friend has hit the jackpot and found a buyer! Well done them.

Comparative Advantages, or Be Different

Above we have two groups; the common group, and the more common group. So let’s say you’re an Isreali woman, with a Isreali accent, in the United States, versus the general population of the U.S. with an American accent. Your accent is desirable, and uncommon (Hosie, 2017).

As such, by simply being French and having a French accent, your ‘price’ has increased above that of the local population every time you open your mouth (assuming you don’t say something stupid). Similarly, British (I assume they mean English) and Scottish men in America do similarly well (Hosie, 2017).

If you stay where everyone is like you, you’ll be competing with people who have the same traits you do, as well as same experiences, upbringing, and so on.

This economic idea is comparative advantages; each person has their own dating advantages that can, and should, leverage into an advantage in dating. So a British man who moves to the U.S. would find themselves more attractive simply by being a desired, but rarer, stock (Hosie, 2017).

This is why the world is full of stories of people who move abroad and find themselves suddenly desired by the local women when they may not be so desired at home; the scarcity of people like them raises their value. If no one in your town is interested in you, leave your town. Same with jobs, by the way.

Comparative Advantages in Practise: Wealth

It’s often said that people should raise or lower their standards. What are the effects of doing so?

Let’s say there are two groups; one wealthy, and one poor. The group that is wealthy will not find your wealth as attractive; they already have it. The marginal utility of extra wealth will diminish (In fact, after $75,000, there isn’t much marginal increase in happiness at all;( Kahneman and Deaton, 2010). Therefore, the benefits of dating you for your wealth is less if the other person already has $75,000 per year. But for someone who has $10,000 per year, the benefits of dating you are massive. This makes dating you, therefore, an attractive prospect.

There is a real world application; mail order brides. The Centre for Immigration Studies (Scholes, 1997) found that the main reason for women to be mail order brides involve monetary and welfare benefit, to enjoy a lifestyle that they cannot find in their own country; American men are also seen as faithful and kind.

In turn, the American men cite ‘traditional values’ which they feel that American women lack, as well as the women often being either beautiful or young; sometimes both (Scholes, 1997).

It’s not just Westerners; Chinese men are beginning to marry Eastern Europeans for their beauty and the possibility of mixed-race children (seen in Chinese media as more beautiful and intelligent), while they themselves offer their wealth (Tsoi and Chen, 2019).

In short, you could look at this example as lowering your standards to get a better quality mate in other ways; by giving up wealth of your partner, you will have this as an advantage in your corner, while being able to find other values that you may prefer over wealth, such as kindness, loyalty, etc. To lower some standards to find other standards works if you’re flexible enough to accept alternate bundles of values.

There is one other way to lower standards; simply place a maximum limit on the value of the relationship (price ceiling) if your demands are too high, or a minimum limit on the relationship (price floor) if your demands are too low.

Standards and Demand Supply

In the above example, if your price is too high, then you are suffering as you have no-one at that level buying. 

If you put a price ceiling on yourself, but you place your maximum price higher than your value, then you do not improve your dating ability (as there are no buyers), and it makes no difference to your life. If you place your price floor (as in, no lower than this), then you will have no buyers and it doesn’t help you.

If you place the ceiling below your value, you will be shorted your value, and so you’ll be with someone below your level and be dissatisfied. A price floor below your value is good (don’t sink too low!), but shouldn’t make much difference.

Lowering your standards is best done to the level that you are at; it is difficult to determine this level, but if done well, you’ll receive the highest price you can command and be happiest for it.

There are a million gurus who tell you how to know what you’re worth, and what you deserve, but in the dating market, you have to have the value to get the price you want (or at least be within that value range).

Comparative Advantages in Practise: Education

Women, you are now more educated than men in the West; in terms of being at least university educated in the United Kingdom, women outnumber men by 26% (UniversitiesUK, 2018).

Source: UniversitiesUK, 2018

Source: UniversitiesUK, 2018

What does this mean? It means that educated women outnumber educated men in the dating market. It means that educated men have lower supply than educated women.

Jon Birgir (2015) calls it not a male deficit problem, but a female oversupply issue. Not only in the United Kingdom, but in the United States, there are 5.5 million college educated women (22-29yrs old), compared to 4.1 million college educated men in the same age bracket in 2015. That’s 3 men for every 4 women; in rural states, it’s 52% more college-educated women than men in Montana, for example. Not only that, but while men are willing to “marry-down”, as in someone less educated, women want to marry up (Buss, 2016).

What does this mean? The relative price of educated men is higher than for educated women, due to the upward pressure of being both scarce in supply, and more in demand from educated women. Research from Jeremy Greenwood et. al. (2012) shows that women are more likely to marry someone from the same educational bracket than over the past 50 years.

What do we have when the supply of educated men is outnumbered by the supply of educated woman who want to date them? We have a shortage of these men. In an interview with economist Jon Birgir (Vice Staff, 2015), he states the following; that there is a lop-sided game of dating that favours these college educated men.

When men refuse to date below their educational level, due to the fact that there is 1.33 women for each man, there really isn’t much of a cost to their dating ability as they are in shortage and those women are in oversupply (Birgir, 2015).

He also states that for a non-college educated man to get a college educated woman, he must make 20% more money than his educated equivalent to be considered equal in the dating game. As women educate, despite the many advantages for themselves and society, it has created an unequal playing field for women leading to these stories; or as one paper put it, and oversupply of educated women who won’t date down (Donnelly, 2017).

Solutions include either getting more men into university, helping men to make more money (increase the supply) or women can accept less educated partners (decrease the demand).

Either way, the situation has become so bad that women are now freezing their eggs in a bid to remain fertile long-enough to find a husband due to this shortage (Donnelly, 2017).

Birgir (2015) points out that if women were willing to date below their own education level, this advantage for men would disappear and women would be able to find suitable husband; we discuss lowering your standards later in this article, but for now, it has become less likely than ever in regards to education.

The situation also works in the reverse; as there are more working class single men than single working class women, the women hold the power, and so the working class men must provide 10% in income to attract a wife than their single counterparts (Birgir, 2015).

Some Chinese economists have placed the additional hard work to attract a wife in China by men and their parents (122 women to 100 men) to be equivalent to 20% of Chinese economic growth, and must own a house and a new car to be husband material; a Chinese bachelorette once said “I would rather cry in a BMW than laugh on a bicycle” (Birgir, 2015). Parents will also prefer to have a daughter now, as a boy is too expensive with all of these requirements (Birgir, 2015; Tsoi and Chen, 2019).

Race and Dating

Due to the tensions around this topic, unbiased data is hard to find. Let’s get some disclaimers out of the way; this data doesn’t mean any race is more or less valuable, nor it is to be used to some kind of racial supremacy argument. We are simply examining existing data.

Dating site OKCupid has about 5 million active users per week, and about 50 million members total; of these, the majority of users are young and gender equal (about 1:1 ratio) (DatingSiteReviews.com, 2019). They release their data on how people actually rate each race in private, with a sample size far beyond representative. The data is consistent across time, and across samples, and in line with a lot of other research. The latest data is below (OkCupid, 2014):

Source: OkCupid, 2014

Now, people are individuals, and every single person has their own preferences; this is macro-data. This is wide, sweeping data on how each race judges other races. Due to the massive sample size, we can judge this as representative data on each race’s dating preferences. So, if you are a Latino man looking for a date, and there was an area containing four equal-sized populations (one for each race), then your dating chances would look something like this:

Using the above model, a Latino man would therefore have greater perceived value by dating in the Latina community where he is best valued for his race. However, if a community was overwhelmingly white or black, he would do better to focus on the bigger market that still regards him well. A larger market can be better than a smaller, niche market (more on that later).

Now, this data is macro-data; it does not cover individual circumstances, and a single Latino man can date a woman from any race.

But when applied across the U.S. society, the most likely interracial marriages are Hispanic-White (38%), as both hispanic and white men and women rate each other well. The next most popular being Asian and white (14%), as Asian and white men and women rate each other well (Chalabi, 2018; OkCupid, 2014)

We can also see this in how often these races will marry outside of their race: black women will overwhelmingly marry black men (91%) when compared to black men (78%) (Chalabi, 2018); look at the data above; black women mostly want black men, and black men are more relaxed across the board (OkCupid, 2014).

Same with Asians; Asian men overwhelming rate Asian women the most positively and only 20% of them will marry another race; whereas Asian women who rate both Asian men and white men highly marry outside their race by 40% (Chalabi, 2018; OkCupid, 2014). We can see from OkCupid (2014) that people are less and less focused on dating within their race, and since 1960, each successive generation is more likely to marry outside of their race, and the more different ethnicities mix, the more likely they’ll intermarry, and it seems that women are more likely to marry outside their race than men (Root, 2001).

Source: Root, 2001

The reasons why this is the case is explained further by Chalibi (2018); I’d recommend reading her article for further analysis. We shall move on.

What about Variations in the Model? E.g. +2/-1 Rule

Some people believe that people date 2 above, or 1 below, or some variation of the model. It’s easily added to the model; simply make the boundaries of the lines larger.

So anywhere within the lighter coloured boundaries will find love. It looks messy on the graph, however, so it’ll generally be left out of models. This can be done with any kind of rule that you may have (men date down, women date up) or (people only date within +/- 2), or whatever. It does, however, help show the variation in attractiveness, as well as the attractiveness increase and decline over time within an existing relationship.

Flat Model; Curved Model; GINI Co-Efficient

We have assumed a flat model of attractiveness, like below:

However, multiple sources, such as the data retrieved by Rudder (2014), founder of OkCupid, shows that actually it is rated differently (at least in terms of physical attractiveness):

Source: Rudder, 2014

What we find is that women rate men overwhelmingly below average; only 1 in 6 men are above average in looks. Men, however, rate women more evenly, so the model for woman and their price/quantity of relationships remains the same. If we graph it out, we find some interesting interpretations:

Simply put, we can see that men have an increasing loss of returns on being attractive; in other words, men who are 10/10 to 9/10 live very much the same lives, and the ‘required price’ to date them isn’t very different. However, once you move past the 50% mark, even a slight decrease in attractiveness leads to a large drop in your ‘required price’.

In short, men, if you’re not great looking, even small improvements in your appearance will yield greater returns than the effort you make in your value. Whereas if you’re physically attractive, there is very little additional benefit to becoming more attractive versus the effort it would take to become so.

Women, however, being more evenly distributed in attractiveness in the perception of the male population, have a generally high level of competition at all levels, and so any efforts to improve themselves will yield constant but lesser benefits to their physical attraction.

Is this research complete bunk? Not at all; if we imagine the world of attractiveness as goods, and we measure inequality, data scientists have found that women have a GINI co-efficient of 0.32, whereas men face a GINI co-efficient of 0.54; the top attractive men hold more than half of all ‘attractiveness’ in the dating market (Tuckfield, 2019).

Playing Hard To Get

Why do people play ‘hard to get’? Economist Robin Hanson (2019) jokingly mentions in a tweet that:

Source: Hanson, 2019

While the joke is well-humoured on the absurdity of using economic thought on dating, he points out that playing hard to get is precisely that; an attempt to raise your value by seeming in demand greater than your actual demand.

Whether it is effective will depend on two factors:

1) Will your customers recognise your true value, or your assumed value?

2) Does your customer believe that they are worthy of your assumed value?

If your assumed value does not match your presented price, you’ll find that your customers may believe that you are ‘not worth the effort’.

Another issue is that while your perceived value may be higher during the initial stages of a relationship, when you relax, you may find your partner is no longer interested in your actual value and that will lead to future issues in the relationship.

In other words, if you try to attract a guy/girl who likes to chase, don’t be surprised when they’re bored when they don’t have to chase anymore. Show your real value; get a guy/girl who will be happy with exactly the product you’re offering.

Lying about Yourself

Oyer (2015) points out that the majority of people lie on their dating site. OkCupid (2010) points out a few common lies:

1) More males than representative are including or over 6ft tall

2) Females are taller than representative in the U.S. public (which is a bad lie, because shorter women actually get more messages)

3) People over exaggerate their income by 20%

4) The hotter the photo, the more out of date it likely is.

Oyer (2015) points out that lying is a rational action; it has little consequences and without it, you will be drowned out in the sea of people who lie because:

a) They have better advertising than you (because of the lying)

b) People assume that you’re already lying, and so if you’re being honest, people assume you’re actually less good than that.

I would argue, however, that if lies are told, it will lead to dissatisfaction as your likely partner will either be disappointed in your actual value, or you will be disappointed in theirs. We’ve all heard of people who have gone on dates to find that the photos of a handsome man/pretty woman are actually someone quite overweight, and they have left the date early and blocked them. Honesty up front would have prevented this, and prevented hurt feelings.

Not only that, but fellows, research shows that women like their men honest for long-term relationships (Paunonen, 2006). Don’t lie!

Practical Application of This Knowledge

What is the point of a theory if you cannot use it? Sophistry. There are two basic ways to change your value; affect either the supply, or the demand for a good.

Supply

So, we know from the race and natural characteristics portions of the article so far that, even if the character of the dater remains the same, that living in different areas or taking part in different activities with different populations can affect the value of the person, as seen below:

Dating Supply

Go to areas where you are uncommon and relative supply of you is less than the relative supply of potential partners (SMinus), and you will stand out; your scarcity will make your value rise. This is why people suggest that you join clubs, or yoga, or Spa Bath University which has only 31% males, or as one dating advice column puts it, male orientated classes or Caltech which is overwhelmingly male (Birgir, 2015). This is the advantage of online dating; large markets drive down the aggregate cost of your partner due to the massive amount of information and competition (Oyer, 2015). You must be wary of the danger that it may also happen to you.

Not only that, but go to another country. A study by Internations found that 72% of expats to Peru were dating a local, Greece (71%), the Philippines (66%), Finland (63%), Romania (62%), and so on. Immigrants to other countries do very well with the locals (Roberts, 2015). Go to where your supply is overrepresented in relation to your partner (SPlus) and your value will drop as additional information in the market drives down your cost (Oyer, 2015).

Even in your local community; going to dating nights will provide supply, but also lower demand due to the sheer amount of people you’re doing up against. But meeting at church, in a bookshop, at a Games Workshop, at work (be careful not the bite the hand that feeds), these are all places which can display a shared interest without having to compete with five dozen other guys or girls going for the same prize.

Go to places with a 1,000 guys/girls like you, and you’re just another option. You’re effectively crowding yourselves out. Every romance film takes place abroad for a reason.

Birgir (2015) provides an example that perceived sex ratios that have more women than men lead to greater career focuses by women; the late Professor Guttentag and Secord found that “given the surplus of women, men will change to their advantage to form relationships take”. In short, whoever is in short supply holds all of the power.

This also works against you; as Professor Oyer (2015) points out; if you go to a place where you do not have many options, then it works against you. Your partner is in short supply, and therefore their value raises. 

As he describes it; a bigger market is a better market, as people will work against each other to get the best deal. Go to a single store and you may be ripped off. So to be clear; make sure you are in short supply; not your opposition. Even if you turn up that 1 in 100 people make suitable partners, you’re going to want at least 100 people to make it more certain, and 1,000 people are more certain than that. If it’s 1 in 100, and your market has 10 buyers… it’s possible but certainly unlikely.

Demand

You already know the other way: increase the demand for you. It requires a lot more work than simply moving around and changing your local supply of dates, but it has a couple of advantages:

1) Higher self-worth

2) Transferable; a desirable and attractive person is always so, regardless of local supply.

3) Improving yourself has a cumulative effect on your life and will improve it in many other ways

4) The most important in terms of this article is that it will raise your value, thus allowing you to attract a better level of partners.

As we can see above, when you improve your value, your demand will also improve from D1 to D3; your price increases (and so does the amount of dates you get in general).

As you decrease your value, your demand moves from D1 to D2; your price decreases, and so does your price and quantity of dates.

As every person has to find a partner that is good for them, and for whom they are good for. Each person has advantages and disadvantages. So you will have to decide how to advertise to the market you both want to be part of. I could write for literally weeks on the various factors, but I’ve chosen to try and keep it general; I’ve also tried to keep it scientific and as supported by evidence as possible to avoid hurt feelings. Here are some of the factors that can raise your general value across the market. Don’t forget; individuals have their own preferences, but these speak for the general rules of demand.

Race Against Time

Jon Birgir (2015) explains that the longer someone stays in the dating game, the less likely they are succeed. Birgir provides a simple example. 

Imagine there are 40 women and 30 men from the above ratio of college educated people. Once half of those women are married, it becomes 20 women, and 10 men; a ratio of 2 women to 1 man. The dating game in education becomes more pro-male as time moves on; the smartest move in this scenario is to move quickly. Hence the prevalence of women who “pre-order” husbands by snagging them in college/university before their value grows exponentially in their career.

This is why women feel dating gets harder over time until their early 30’s; it’s a demographic problem. Not only that; but men are attracted to youth, and men are attracted to fertility (Miller and Maner, 2009). Whereas women are attracted to older men; it’s called the ”George Clooney Effect”. Again; time weighs against women, but helps men. As Birgir (2015) says, it’s not a call for women to stop focusing on their career, but to quote Meg Jay (2013), it’s that women should be focusing on developing their potential relationships alongside their careers in their 20’s, not later.

Personal Capital

Psychologist Meg Jay (2013) talks about increasing your ‘identity capital’. Not all value is external; being a good person, being a kind or funny person, developing your self-control, and reducing your vices and weaknesses will improve your demand in the long term.

For example, volunteering is a good way to build personal capital, improve the world, and make yourself more attractive; Moore et. al. (2013) found that volunteering makes you more attractive in the long-term sexual relationships, and for men as a short-term fling. It doesn’t help women in the short-term fling, however; men will sleep with women with or without volunteering.

General behaviour can affect your chances; for example, when men act more mindful in their behaviour, women are more attracted (Janz et. al., 2015). There is plenty of literature to say that men and women both like people who laugh at their jokes, and women find men who play, listen to, and compose more complex music to be more attractive (Charlton, 2014). In short; be a fun and good person to be around. Have a hobby (and a unique hobby helps make you a distinct, and therefore scarcer person), have fun, be kind, be polite, and be good. Not too hard, right?

There are also negative effects on your personal capital on the dating market. These, however, are harder to find data for reasons I am sure you can imagine.

I’ll pick two common ones. Criminal behaviour makes you less attractive for long-term relationships. It was found that taking modern day risks such as drug-taking or not wearing a seat belt makes you less attractive to both sexes (Petraitis et. al., 2014). Criminal behaviour in turn is linked to low education and income, and will in turn lead to low education and income, reducing your attractiveness. In short; don’t commit crimes if you’d like to find a good partner.

Another is being divorced. Why? Because these people have a higher risk of divorcing you later (Banschick, 2012). Humans can be rational, and why take additional, known, and tested risk? I’m not saying that people should stay in bad marriages; but it does reduce your level of attractiveness as a partner in the long-run. Any previous behaviour in relationships can be used to judge your future behaviour in relationships; this is why banks run credit scores when determining if you’re a good investment. Make sure you do not overlook risky previous behaviour.

When evaluating yourself, it is best to be honest. Does this behaviour or personality trait make me better or worse to date? Is over-drinking going to make me more or less of a catch? Being a single parent (both men and women suffer being single parents) make you more date-able or less so? If they are a single parent, are they good parents? Kind, loving, and hard-working? Are you more date-able because you procrastinate, watch T.V., or have a job you despise? If there is a trait that is bringing you down, change it if you can, and accept it if you can’t and try to handle it as well as you can.

Education

We have an entire part about about this already; in the current circumstances, it is beneficial for men to have a higher education as it increases their demand in a market that has a shortage of men. Currently, in the West, a woman who increases her education finds herself in a position to either date down, or struggle comparatively to find a partner (Birgir, 2015).

Birgir (2015) tells a story of when he is at Sarah Lawrence University of 75% of women, that the men at that university enjoy near-limitless free sex and power. At that same time, a male student said that there is no culture of monogamy due to this massive advantage.

If you are struggling with this, consider dating someone who doesn’t have a higher education to solve this issue.

Deal Breakers

When choosing a market, having a niche demand can make a smaller market of buyers can compensate for having less people. Oyer (2015) mentions that when a demand is a dealbreaker, going for a smaller market can still pay off as people who have the same dealbreaker are more likely to engage in a relationship with you.

Identifying your dealbreakers, and finding a market who will agree with those dealbreakers can pay off well in finding a high-value partner. A famous example would be a religious restriction; for example, if you only date Jews, then cutting out all non-Jews will remove a lot of fluff from your market, and you’ll be well-served to go to a synagog to find the highest concentration of other people who only date Jews.

That said, if your dealbreakers are too many, then you eliminate too many people from your dating pool (Oyers, 2015). This has two knock-on effects; the first being that you make your dating pool too small to be successful. The second being that you reduce the relative size of your supply of dates, thus reducing your own relative scarcity value. Make sure to identify your specific deal breakers.

Presenting Yourself

Oyer (2015) points out that people are ‘statistically discriminating’. That when information is presented with one trait, people will assume other traits. Some examples are racial or gender profiling. He provides a dating example:

Let’s say you write on your profile that you are ‘separated’. This can have three meanings:

1) You’re a nice guy who just wants to give dating another go

2) You’re a guy who plans to get back to his wife one day

3) You’re a guy who is cheating on his wife.

When you present that single piece of information (having ‘separated’), people will save themselves a lot of time and effort and assume negative information (2 and 3) based on that. This in turn drives down the demand for you. We all know the jokes: “Non-athletic” means “fat”, or “looking to settle down” means “has an interesting past”, but the fact is, people do precisely that.

As such, in the absence of other people being verified for their attributes, it is best to ‘signal’; to have some proof that separates you from the ‘fakers’. The ‘signal’ has to be correlated to your qualification in this attribute, and something a ‘faker’ cannot do (Oyer, 2015).

Learning how to present and sell yourself is absolutely a part of dating; to ensure you don’t reduce your own price and end up with someone of lesser value, you must learn to sell yourself to your highest (honest) value. Even a wonderful car can’t be sold with a bad salesman.

In terms of your photo, a report found that women found pride in men to be the most attractive, and men found happiness in women to be the most attractive (Tracy and Beall, 2011). Vacharkulksemsuk et. al., (2016) found that expansive postures and perceived dominant behaviour was more attractive. Ancient risk-taking behaviour (such as hunting, rock-climbing) is seen as more attractive (Petraitis et. al., 2014). I hope all of these help your general photo taking skills, as for many types of dating, a photo is part one.

Physical Appearance

Let’s be honest; healthy and physically beautiful/handsome people are more attractive than trolls and goblins. It’s not just me, here is a list of data to prove it. More physically attractive people are more likely to be messaged. Hence why people fake more attractive photos (OkCupid, 2010). It’s a supported fact; men like good looking women (Oyer, 2015). Scholes (1997) found that men ordered brides who are beautiful. Chinese men chose their brides based on the potential beauty of their wives and potential children (Tsoi and Chen, 2019). Janz et. al. (2015) found that the largest predictor of male attraction is physical appearance.

So if you want to get a more attractive man, you need to be more attractive. This is why gay men trying to get men are often obsessed with their bodies to the point of mental illness (Arnold, 2018). Men know what men like.

Cleanliness and Grooming

Firstly, being clean and groomed improves your confidence, which in turn improves your dating life. Even the confidence from wearing new deodorant makes a difference (Lebowitz, 2016). Not only that, but the actual wearing of deodorant and otherwise smelling nice makes you more attractive (Roberts et. al., 2009).

In short; be clean, and you’ll be both confident (which helps you) and hygienic (which helps them).

Wealth

I’m sure it’s shocking, but women like men who make money (Oyer, 2015). Therefore, men who make more money get more messages (OkCupid, 2010):

Source: OkCupid, 2010

Birgir (2015) shows that when you increase your income, your value increases enough to snag people when your value does not stand out.  So if you want to get more messages, make more money. It means work harder, get a better job, improve your education. As your wealth increases, you life gets easier, your life will become happier (up to $75,00 per year), you can do more things, and you’ll have more attractive partners.

Conclusion

The fact is that dating, attraction, and romance are just as much under the laws of economics as anything else. That’s why the name “the sexual marketplace” has arisen. There is a host of data on most of this, and frankly, I’ve had to personally stop here just to stop myself writing this for the next month*.

I’ve tried to keep as much non-supported theories and data from here because people are likely to be offended, and this is trying to be a non-biased, can work in most societies paper on attraction.

This paper is not trying to tell you who is of what worth, or whether this or that person is a good person. It is simply pointing out that economic theories such as supply and demand, price and value, consumers and buyers, comparative advantages, export and import theory, demographics, scarcity, surpluses and shortages all apply to the world of dating.

So we can determine this; it is perfect able to manipulate the supply matrix by moving countries or places as well as going to places with different groups of people, as well as improve (or reduce) your personal price in the dating market through the action, behaviours, presentation, and other factors; and all of this can be done to improve your dating, relationship, and eventual marriage experience.

It also shows that factors outside of your control can, and sadly do, affect your dating experience. How education is attached to class can be read here.

This paper also shows that economic thinking is not all money supplies, taxes, and utility levels: as Oyer (2015) said, it’s about scarcity and incentives. Learning to think a bit like an economist can be rewarding (if sometimes depressing). The paper also tries to provide models for the various ways we think about value in relation to each other.

There is a large amount of kind-hearted but not-supported words of well-wishing, like “People will love you as you are now” and “If s/he doesn’t like that, they don’t deserve you” or “You’ll have time later for love”. The data doesn’t support this, nor does common sense. There is little reason to not try and improve your life for your own benefit, and to try and get a better love-life as a result. You would not accept a subpar product for an inflated price; why should you accept the same in your husband or wife?


If you’ve enjoyed reading this, please consider following me on Twitter @LeonDeclis or on Apple News on the Idea Meritocracy channel. There is also a Facebook page at @IdeaMeritocracyEcon. Have a nice day!

  • At time of writing, this paper is 3 days late.


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In all articles, I provide as much information for sources as possible, including links. I encourage everyone reading this article to read deeper, and make their own conclusions. For students, links are here so they can read the original source themselves. Most sources are linked the first or second time they appear in the article.

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