Under one model, Tinder teaches you the joys of tussling with those from “the other side of the tracks,” and pulls you away from marrying a fellow Ph.d. — “once you’ve tried Mack, you’ll never go back.”
My intuition differs. You use Tinder in bars, venues, and neighborhoods you have chosen. So you end up tussling with, or mating with, or just chatting with, the more attractive members of your own preferred socioeconomic group. If your group wasn’t on average so sexy to begin with, well at least at the top end it just got a big upgrade in terms of your actual access to attractiveness. So on net the high socioeconomic groups become sexier, at least for those “at the top” with the most choice.
(I am assuming by the way that male photos can to some extent signal status, income, and education, and not just looks; furthermore the male follow-up can demonstrate this readily. And many “connection” services post this information in one form or another as part of the profile. If need be, in general equilibrium bars can adjust their exclusiveness levels to match better to a world-with-Tinder, so that bar patrons are not lured into socioeconomically mistaken “honey pot” marriages.)
Most of all, Tinder gets you out more. You sample more people, even if you don’t end up meeting them through the Tinder app itself. Going to a bar or public space is a better way to spend time than before, and that draws others out too. That’s right, “thick market externalities.” The resulting extra meetings tend to favor assortative mating, just compare such plenitude to a corner solution where you meet only one potential spouse your entire life, namely the proverbial girl next door.
Put it this way: George Clooney or a Silicon Valley billionaire can do better — especially better, compared to others — choosing from 500 people than from five. He (she) has a very good chance of getting his (her) absolute top favorite pick, or close to it. The local milkman also does better from a larger sample size, if only because of match and compatibility issues, but can’t expect to move up so much and of course the pool as a whole can’t “move up” at all. (If you wish, break this down into a positive-sum compatibility component and a competitive zero-sum component; unlike Clooney the milkman may not gain on the latter.)
Finally, Tinder may make it easier for married people to find casual sex, again if they have the right qualifications. Therefore those marrieds may, earlier on, decide to choose a spouse on the grounds of IQ and education, again boosting assortative mating in terms of those features.
In sum, I expect Tinder to boost assortative mating, at least at the top end of the distribution in terms of IQ and education.
And please note, I suspect this increase in assortative mating is a good thing. The abilities of top achievers have a disproportionate impact on the quality of our lives, due to innovation being a public good.
In any case, file under speculative.
Addendum: An interesting twist on the model is to assume that men have some willingness to marry down in terms of education, in return for beauty or other forms of household production, but women do not. An increase in the total sampling of potential partners therefore boosts the marriage prospects of very beautiful women, at the expense of less beautiful women of a given level of educational attainment. In percentage terms, very beautiful women of decent but not extraordinary educational achievement gain the most. Men who are indifferent to such forms of female beauty end up with the smartest children.
Second addendum: Yesterday brought an ongoing twitter exchange on these issues, you might start with tweets by @ninjaeconomics and @modestproposal.