Do Tinder and related services increase assortative mating?

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.


Doesn't Tinder, like Grindr but presumably somewhat less so due to simple biomechanical reasons, mostly just facilitate sterile activities rather than mating?

That's what I thought. From what I've read about Tinder, most Tinder users use it for casual sex, and are presumably not stupid (i.e. use condoms) and therefore are not mating.

True. No one uses Tinder to find a relationship. Well i know a couple of people, but they belong to the crazies.

Not quite... The behavior of people on tinder seems very city dependent but in my experience (at least within females in my filter, 25-31 in Boston) most women are very much clear they are looking for dates and it's like 50% of those who bother to write anything say "no hookups".

I think cities like New York where the general population skews female rather than male (thus more choice for males but also just even more extremes of always another opting for both sexes) it may be more as most people stereotype the app, but I'm guessing those are the exceptions rather than actual norms.

Everyone that i know that uses Tinder is for hook-ups even if they say otherwise, but i dont live in the US so maybe is different.

My observation, 99% of male Tinder users are using it to hook up. 50% of female Tinder users are using it to straight up hook up. 25% are using it to hook up, but wouldn't be on there outside the possibility of a serious relationship blossoming. The rest rationally know its just for hooking up, and all their friends advise them to use another platform for a relationship. But they're lonely, and the reward feedback is a lot more immediate with Tinder than, OkCupid, JDate, etc. So they hope against hope to find a diamond in the rough.

Hooking up serves more ends than sexual gratification. Most young singles don't know their value in the dating marketplace. It's like going to an auction without knowing how much you have in your wallet. Allowing younglings or recent divorcees to date more frequently (via an Uber for dates), allows quicker "self" price discovery. The more random the dates, the great the breadth of information. So relatively haphazard meets have a function besides an opportunity for sex -- even if sex is the ostensible goal.

I've known women who'd go on 5 first dates a week, maybe set up a double header on Sunday. They weren't sleeping with the vast majority of these guys. It was a mostly chance to figure out how they stacked up, what was out there -- with sex being just one point of comparison. (I mean, how is she going to know if she's good in bed, if she never sleeps with anyone? It's better to have your stumbles with one night stands, so that you can go in guns blazing when the stakes are high.) Tinder is dating practice, and an information culling tool.

Good point.

Plenty of married relationships begin with a casual hookup that wasn't intended to lead to anything.

And sometimes people in those marriages even go on to find happiness in their second marriage.

It's unfortunate that this is kept as something of a secret from teenagers. It's understandable that people don't broadcast the fact that shortly after they are only married today because of a drunken hookup, but it would help some kids out if they knew how common that was.

I am more curious if Tinder leads to longer and more stable relationships or does it lead to more sampling ? Perhaps you can always do better later , so why settle down now.

Similarly having access to a larger variety and types of food does not necessarily give you a better diet, perhaps just more eating

"Tinder leads to longer and more stable relationships" You have clearly never used Tinder...

They call it "meat-market here for a reason...

"The local milkman also does better from a larger sample size..."

For someone who flirts with the RP/NRx/DE folks so much, this seems to have completely missed the point of what those guys say...

If the "Milkmaid" - the Milkman's natural equal - ever has a chance to sample say five minutes with the Silicon Valley (or Hedge Fund) Billionaire or with a George Clooney, will she ever be satisfied with a long simple life with the Milkman?

Before Tinder and the like those two might have settled down and lived happily ever after and had plenty of average offspring. Now everybody has fear of missing out and the new markets make it possible to keep bargaining until the sun has set on any natural fertility.

Our grandparents might have had the school dance, (or Prince Charming's Ball) to catch the best possible match. Now every young thing dumps her high school sweetheart and off to the big city or at least the big campus in order to catch Prince Charming (or at least his 21st century equivalent, Mr. Big).

Milkmaid was promptly and casually discarded by George Clooney once her novelty wore off; she regrets the experience and she doesn't enter into relationships with men who remind her of him. Milkman, on the other hand, views such (rare) experiences positively, and it is confidence boosting for him to know that he once had a ten.

One may as well keep bargaining until the sun is setting on natural fertility, since stable decent jobs and money for the down-payment won't be in hand until then anyway.

Yes. People enter relationships but are still looking to trade up. Especially brutal in big cities with lopsided gender ratios like NYC and the Bay area.

Those are compelling stories, but where's the data?

Who needs data when you have simplistic stories that comprehensively explain the world?

Go forth and neg!

Lol. Seriously asking people who think the world was better in 1950 for "data" is not going to go well.

Is it possible considering how badly the elites have managed things that we are in the crosseyed halfwit phase of assortive mating?

Shorter Tyler Cowen: 'move to the Philippines if you're looking for love, it's all good'.

Tell me more...

Don't encourage him

Sex is already brutally unfair. Ask any STEM student on any campus. Success among the males is disproportionately concentrated among a small number of the men.

All that Tinder will do is make that disproportion even more extreme.

It is not likely to lead to more successful marriages but fewer.

More information allows the top tier to dominate, but it should also allow people in the fat middle of the distribution to more easily express preferences unrelated to socio-economic similarity. The question is whether most people really prefer similar backgrounds over all other things.

Online dating allows for -- at an extreme -- sugar daddies to find sugar babies, which is very non-assortative. I can think of many less extreme examples of non-assortative pairing, that are only easily practicable because of online dating.

Tinder is different from the other online dating services. Tinder is a return to the randomness of bar-going mate selection -- the bar experience with digital benefits. Contrast this with Match, OkCupid, etc where you can vet prospective dates in intimate detail before sending a note. It's de-risking the date, pulling out randomness. Tinder's popularity shows how highly people value randomness, basically how much non-assortative dating they prefer. I suppose you could compare usage statistics across the various types of sites (random vs. traditional) to draw conclusions.

Tinder allows top males (say top 20% in terms of looks) to absolutely dominate the sexual marketplace more so than ever at the expense of other men. The existence of services like Tinder also give women the incentive to delay marriage until the absolute last minute (in terms of their physical appeal) since marrying in their early 20s would mean missing out on the joys of associating serially with top tier males. A man who is a "5" in terms of physical looks might've matched with a girl who is also a "5," but now through Tinder that 5 rated girl is getting invitations from men who are 6s, 7s and 8s, due to the male desire for sexual novelty. This girl has a choice to make: Settle with her looks matched man or have a fun/exciting live being the sex toy of attractive men who validate her ego?

Not sure about that. A guy who is "7/8" wont settle for "easy prey".

> The existence of services like Tinder also give women the incentive to delay marriage until the absolute last minute.

This doesn't jibe with the facts on the ground. My social circle is primarily college-educated whites between 25 and 35. Almost universally the women would prefer to be engaged now and married within a year or two. Contrarily virtually all of the men, including the ones in long-term committed relationships, would prefer to delay marriage for as long as possible. The male preferences are winning because its a buyers market. College-educated 20-something males now out-number their female counterparts four-to-three, and its only becoming more skewed.

Educated, urban American women are desperate for (nominally) educated men willing to commit. You have a point, in that if they were willing to "date down" far enough they'd find an unattractive and unsuccessful mate that'd be grateful to have them. But there are limits to how much the brain can bend the heart. As it stands, that strategy would require the typical woman to settle for a man significantly less desirable than their mothers did.

Funny, my experience was the exact opposite. All the men wanted to settle down and have kids, but the women weren't willing. Mostly it was because they wanted to concentrate on career.

Comments about "20% of males with looks dominating" is just silly. If a man does interesting stuff and is confident, that's sufficient to get a lot of attention from women.

The "college-educated 20-something males now out-number their female counterparts four-to-three" meme is one of those things that is technically true but misses the point. I made a graph of the percentage female by age group and income here:

from here:

The fact is, if a White woman wants a man who is her own age and race and makes a similar income, it's a "woman's market." Now, she can hold out and demand that because she's a "college graduate" who works as a low-paid clerk or nurse she deserves another, significantly higher paid doctor or engineer as a husband. But that's not what her mother(who probably is not college educated) got.

Top males are generally only interested in top females. So if you're a B list or C list guy there are still plenty if women in your class available

What are the odds that middleaged eggheads with 42 inch waists modelling this from their drab university offices are missing key parts of the social experience that influence participant's motivations, and therefore getting their models wrong?

It's only when women can no longer afford being the sex toys of attractive men (because of women's rapidly contracting fertility/ physical attractiveness window) that they leave Tinder.

The average male should loathe Tinder.

Very few women are solely on Tinder. Most have profiles across a range of sites, as well as active social lives. Your model is simply wrong, at least 90% of college-educated single women are actively seeking a committed, monogamous relationship. Hook-up culture is about satisfying immediate sexual urges, without having to rush into a relationship with a low-quality or incompatible partner. The median college-educated male will have little luck with short-term flings or one-night stands. But if he's willing to make a plausible display of commitment and fidelity, the median college-educated female would love to be his serious girlfriend.

Most women want to be in a situation where they don't have to be on Tinder. The problem is their would be husbands don't want to get off it.

Hint: Those aren't would-be husbands.

"Going to a bar or public space is a better way to spend time than before, and that draws others out too"

I'm not sure if I understand this correctly but while Grindr works on very immediate vicinity, Tinder is more of a "meet people within 5 miles" thing -- I don't think going to a bar or public space increases your Tinder matching chances at all.

I wonder if all these thing of increased assortative mating is real, or is only a statistical illusion.

At least in Portugal (a very different country, I know) women marrying down is much more common nowadays than some decades ago.

Hmmm Really? From what i see, is just like here: people who went to university A-level tend to gravitate to people with the same level. Maybe they will have a couple of bf who didnt go to university, but they are not going to marry them except if they met at high school or smth.

I talking about relative changes - a woman marrying down is very rare, but I think that is more common than some decades ago (where this is almost unthinkable).

Of course, this could be simply by statistical reasons (attending that, nowadays, there are much more woman than man with college degrees, some of these woman have to "marry down")

A couple ideas: genes determine physical attractiveness at 16 years old. After 20, life habits control attractiveness. Genes don't substitute diet, exercise, culture, clothing, personal hygiene, etc. So, women choosing the most attractive men on Tinder is an habits issue. Not sure if IQ it's related to reading and mastering those attractiveness habits.

Also, "women don't marry down" could be just a feature of the relative low number of rich women. If the pool of very rich and secure women increase, things may change.

Fortunately in Europe, we are not so prude and uptight. The right wing moralists that frequent this supposed pro-libertarian site are writing like old and white ageing baby boomers along with the sterile academics box on this thread over a dating (really quick sex) service.

We do not face such irrelevant moral dilemmas or outrages over a "dating service." Single or married guys in Germany AND business travelers just go
here (not the depressing red-light district) with no issues.

Europeans believe in individual responsibility and adult choices and consequences more so than Americans. Yes, we are the post-christians that your right wing likes to criticize so much. Actually, Europeans realize that enjoying this life now is a better bet than some mythical and questionable afterlife.

So do not worry so much about 'selective mating' or meeting that special someone from a superficial dating service.

Or maybe this an outstanding troll from Tyler. And I do like your site Tyler and have bought your audio books.

Legalized prostitution would certainly be a boon for U.S males.

Europeans are going extinct.

What is this a parody of?

Great sub-thread. Nice work, each of you.

I'm still not sure whether the choice of "milkman" is a drollery or a blunder.

Since I was a boy, I can remember advice to marry at or slightly above your station.

I would like to know who on this board has married or would be willing to marry someone lower in g-intelligence than they are, or would encourage their children to do so.

If someone is socially engaging and interested in diverse things, who cares if they're not as smart as long as they're interested in learning and they also bring something different to the table?

I'd put creative thinking at miles above intelligence. Talking advanced science modelling, etc. with the spouse? Not very interesting. Dreaming up crazy ideas? Very interesting. Getting involved in social/music/arts projects? Very interesting.

I highly doubt that many people's concerns for their children's matches relate to g-intelligence of any such thing. More like ... Does he/she love you? Do they treat you well? I mean, no one wants their children to marry a welfare bum, but as long as they have a stable job or are persistent in job searches when luck turns down, I don't think intelligence ranks very highly in most parents' aspirations for children's matches.

To be socially engaging and intellectually curious requires intelligence. You are high-g, and would obviously be uninterested in, say, the typical British football fan. So would I, which is why I married a woman with a graduate degree.

You don't seem so happy though. You seem angry.

He doesn't seem angry at women so most likely his marriage was a success. I get mad at the kind of evil Pakis perpetuate on little England but that doesn't mean I don't adore my dear Margery.

It varies but I really don't think the average grad student is very intellectually curious at all. Would you say the average doctor is intellectually curious? Hell no. Anecdotes aren't much but five of the six most intellectually stimulating people I've known over the years didn't even have a bachelors degree. (the other is a PhD scientist) Their eccentric natures and unconventional life paths were quite opposite of the typical goodie two shoes that goes to college at 18, graduates at 22, and goes on to grad school.

But yes, mostly high IQ, but not always. One of them dropped out of high school and probably has a low or moderate IQ, but is far more intellectual and interesting to talk to than most college graduates I've met... though indeed most dropouts aren't like that.

But grad school isn't for the intellectually curious... unless being completely focused on one tiny subject at the expense of the rest of the world constitutes being intellectual. For example I had a friend who was very intellectual until grad school... years into grad school he didn't know shit about what was going on in the world or much of anything outside of his niche subject.

I've seen the claim several places that the variance in intelligence is higher in men than in women. If that's true, then on the smart end of the distribution, the men will tend to be a little smarter than the women, and on the dumb end of the distribution, the women will tend to be a little smarter than the men.

I've a 140-150 IQ, while my wife has one in the 120-130 range. Doesn't really bother me.

Below one SD, you would have real problems.

Not me. I love my wife. She loves me. We've been married 26 years. Our IQ difference is 30-40, not that we ever think about that. There's so much more to life...

See also: 25th Hour (62nd Percentile):


Also, I'm forgetting there are fewer women than men on the right side tail you inhabit.

It's very unlikely you can be confident in those IQ ranges. Having such an IQ isn't terribly uncommon, but having had it measured accurately is a different matter.

From what I remember, 140 is the top 2%.

One out of 50 is not uncommon.

145 is three sigma, which is about 1.4 in 1000. As I said, not terribly uncommon but not 1 in 50 either -- that's around 130.

Regardless, my point wasn't about the likelihood of the IQ range, but the likelihood that the poster has good evidence for it. Childhood IQ tests are fairly worthless in terms of eventual adult IQ and very few adults have reason to ever take IQ tests. And even when they do because of the limited size of the validation set the error bars get huge by the time you move out to three standard deviations.

When someone on the internet throws out a high IQ score your best bet is updating in favor of that poster having a complicated relationship with honesty.

Heh, I'm sure there are many women who would want a man who was attractive, but not more attractive then they. If I was to be honest with that sort of thing, I can totally see the male counterpart as "Smart, but not quite as smart as me."

All things being equal I would encourage my children to marry someone about as intelligent as they are. But all things are not equal. If the choice is between someone they love, respect, are attracted to and who loves, respects and is attracted to them, but is one sigma less intelligent, and someone who is lacking one one of those non-intelligence-related vectors, I'd encourage them to marry the former. Because I'm interested in more than optimizing the intelligence of my grandchildren; I actually want my children to be happy and fulfilled.

All on their own, they will tend to be attracted to their intellectual peers. People outside a standard deviation of intelligence just don't have a lot to talk to each other about.

Maybe dorks with high intelligence have trouble connecting with people of ordinary intelligence. It's never been a problem for me.

Offhand, restricting myself to people in my IQ circle would be a special kind of hell. College was plenty.

It's not a problem for me either. For example, I'm not the one advocating for Meso-American stoop labor so I don't have to deal with a white or black laborer presuming to ask me in my own language if I caught the game last night.

Your wife's IQ or, if you will, generalized intelligence, is probably higher than what you tell yourself it is.

Offhand, restricting myself to people in my IQ circle would be a special kind of hell

Yep, especially outside of college. Actually, the one time as a kid I was in a group with 20 140+ IQ kids my age, I only really got along with a few of them, even though we shared a lot of common interests.

You asked:

"I would like to know who on this board has married or would be willing to marry someone lower in g-intelligence than they are, or would encourage their children to do so."

My response explained the circumstances under which I would marry someone 1-sigma less intelligent than me, and under which I would advise my children to do the same.

If I or one my children loved, respected and was attracted to someone, and that person reciprocated those feelings but was was 1-sigma less intelligent than me then I would not hesitate to marry him/her purely on the basis of the difference in intelligence.

My wife has never been tested, but I suspect she's ~1 sigma below me. True, we've had some friction in our marriage, but I don't attribute it to the difference in IQ.

I wouldn't accept the premise that increasing the size of the mating pool increases the likelihood of finding Mr. or Ms. Right; more likely it increases the likelihood of finding Mr. or Ms. Wrong. There's a reason why the typical American lives within 18 miles of mom. Contrary to the expression "familiarity breeds contempt", it isn't familiarity that dooms a marriage or a relationship, it's recognition that she or he isn't the right partner: happy long-term relationships are successful partnerships. And what's the right partner? Just as in a business partnership, in a marriage partnership you don't want someone just like you, you want someone with different strengths (and weaknesses). Does assortative mating increase the likelihood of a successful partnership? Not if both partners bring the same strengths (and weaknesses) to the partnership. Cowen assumes, without any proof ("file under speculative"), that assortative mating is a good thing because it increases each mate's productivity and their and everyone else's economic well-being. I don't know about that. Maybe he just wants to keep the peace at home (although his comment about extra-marital mating via Tinder can't help with that). [I once was married to a lawyer too, but I'm a lawyer not an economist. Indeed, since I'm a lawyer I don't care to spend all of my leisure time with another lawyer. Sure, some of the smartest people I know are lawyers, but I'd rather spend my leisure time with someone who has a different point of view, a different approach to resolving problems, a different set of strengths (and weaknesses). I know many couples who are lawyers - and many couples who are physicians (including my maternal grandparents). That's assortative mating in the extreme. Good luck with that!]

You are proof that most people prefer to breed with their intellectual peers.

The market for donated eggs and sperm could shed light on some aspects of this discussion. Or is assortative mating another one of those areas where free market-economists have to become egalitarian ideologues and defer to their wives for an understanding of what's really going on?

George: What about personality?

Jerry: Good personality. Funny. Bright.

George: Smarter than me? I don't want anyone smarter than me.

Jerry: How could she be smarter than you?

IIRC, the woman's problem was that he's bald

Bertrand Russell's 1936 essay, Our Sexual Ethics, lays the foundation for many of these points. As time goes on, science and technology flourish, we rely less on the church, and travel more. That's a good thing as it gives us more choice in selection. At the root of every relationship is a market. You date someone because that's the best person you could get at the time, and vice-versa. Surprise, equilibrium! Tinder fits nicely into all of these. Frankly, it helps the market for relationships be more efficient - whether that be a hook-up (the intent), dating, or friendship.

There's an interesting time-inconsistency problem with profiles. The first test is based on physical traits. Swipe left if you're ugly, right if you're not. The second test is judging someone on their relatively short profile. What do you do? What are you about? Are you a cool person? Are you another Tinderati mouth-breather? If I ever teach a principles of micro course, I will definitely use Tinder when teaching utility. It really is a great example of it. The little utility meter in your head makes split-second decisions based on the first test.

And yet even after these two tests, some things are missed in profiles. Super babe who's an economist and specifically notes function over fashion in her profile is appealing to me. But if she's looking for that, she'll never get that out of my profile, even if I have those traits (though this is where the Super Like becomes useful). Perhaps it's because what I value most is what I note in my profile, and while I have those traits, they're not important enough to highlight by substituting other content. It's really an issue of opportunity cost since there's a finite space for content (because to go on ad nauseam, like this reply, is a surefire swipe left maximization strategy).

Tinder is great because it allows you to connect to people outside of your social circle. I've matched with a number of people that have similar interests, yet I'd very likely never run into or even talk to because our social circles simply don't overlap. You can make the argument all online dating does this, but Tinder does it easily. It's intentionally transactional. It doesn't make me compete with the keyboard warriors of the sofa on OKC who want to name drop every obscure book and movie known to man. And frankly, it's easy.


Also, there are many (seven?) types of intelligence beyond what IQ and education measures or suggests. Mark McGuire might not have a high IQ since he got caught using steroids, but he's still better baseball player than most of the population. If someone desires that type of intelligence, they can still find it on Tinder, and that's still assortative mating. It all depends on the type of intelligence you value. Plus, mating is not prefaced on marriage.


There is nothing new since Maurivaux's play "the game of love and chance" in 1730. Even disguised as servants, masters fall in love with masters and vice-versa.

History does afford us the occasional example of matches made across major class boundaries. A historically significant case: back in the 1420s Catherine of Valois, the very bored widow of Henry V of England, slept with her butler*, one Owen Tudor, from an obscure Welsh family that had been ruined in Owain Glendwr's rebellion a generation before. And yes, the couple (apparently married in secret) were the grandparents of THOSE Tudors.

* His actual title was "Groom of the Bedchamber". The 15th century jokes must have written themselves.

It remains an open question whether matching functions are constant returns to scale, in both labor and marriage markets.

I note that although he comes close, Tyler manages to never use the dreaded male-as-noun construction. Not so for his commentators, where it is rampant.

Maybe we finally have an explanation for why Tyler flirts with the new right, he wants to attract a commenting crowd that makes him look like he has high social skills in comparison.

the dreaded male-as-noun construction.

What? I have literally no idea what you're talking about.

"Tinder allows top males ... missing out on the joys of associating serially with top tier males"

"College-educated 20-something males now out-number ..."

"Success among the males is disproportionately concentrated .."

"The average male should loathe Tinder."

"Legalized prostitution would certainly be a boon for U.S males."

Yes. People used "male" as a noun, which it is. I have no idea at all why you called it "dreaded." I don't even have any guesses that make sense.

Yeah, I agree more with the basic model than TC's alternative. The sorting plus Tinder isn't going to demonstrate a real increase on environmental sorting without Tinder.

But they have data, so someone could check (at least what the correlation is for matches on the service relative to spouses, then assume that an randomly selected % of matches go on to marriage, which is probably the best you can do). For something with a history behind it you could check whether people who use Classified ads tend to end up more assortatively married than their matched cohort who didn't.

Tinder is indeed predominantly used for hook-ups and flings. I would bet that an increasing % of meetings are leading to relationships, and, yes, marriages, however small those numbers are today. I myself know people in these categories and don't have a particularly large sample size of friends using Tinder.

I tend to agree that it would lead to an increase in assortative mating, to the extent we can use the term "mating" here. I would point out, however, that as far as these types of "matching" dating apps go, Tinder is likely to lead to the lowest amount of assortative, versus say Hinge, or Bumble, which have lower variances in socioeconomic status.

Your most controversial point is that Tinder is actually helping the bar scene, by getting folks out more often. Maybe, but it seems like the opposite. Tinder is dominated by the age 20-25 urban crowd. Sitting at home with no social options for the night is a relatively less common problem in the dating app networks. A lot of the activity is therefore replacement activity, and not net new visits to bars, restaurants etc... Nevermind that a lot of the activity is 1-1 and a material % is not even in public arenas. I'd bet on dating apps being a net drag to these scenes, and social skills in general.

Agreed. If you can a get a girl without leaving the confort of your couch then...

I have never used Tinder: I met my wife on OKCupid before Tinder became popular. So my question is: is this post about Tinder specifically (rather than online dating in general) because Tinder is unique or game-changing in some way, or are we using Tinder as a stand-in for "all online dating sites or apps".

Online dating has been around for years, and most sites are far more relationship-focused than Tinder, which is perceived as being about hook-ups.

Good point. I met my spouse on IRC about 20 years ago.

Tinder is fundamentally location based in a way that "insert your zip code and set a distance" sites aren't. Also, Tinder dispenses with the idea that anything but the pictures matters much. The same is true of all the profile based sites, but hiding that fact attracts a different crowd than leaving it out in the open.

Christmas was here this year. The two nephews are on tinder. My niece is not...she laughs at them. But she is more the taking in stray cats with one eye type of person.

All 3 look fantastic in photos. It's remarkable really. Their Facebooks are slick productions.

The oldest (27) has made a connection with a 29 yo woman thru tinder. But he was always more comfortable with the "connection" as opposed to the hook up. His brother is pretty much a horn dog.

Anyway, in my experience people will find each other if they are at that point.

My experience with Tinder suggests to me that it works like a singles bar. The best looking singles (of both sexes) get the most attention, and a large fraction (I've heard that this is as much as half) get no swipes at all. And women, essentially, are the ones who make these judgments. I know plenty of men whose Tinder strategy is to swipe right on every pic and then sort out from among the few responses. Many women who use Tinder, I suspect, do so with little interest in actually meeting someone (they use it as titillation), and another large group won't swipe right unless they feel some sense of connection with the photo (which can be a matter of the person looking great, or a desired physical attribute, or, more rarely, I suspect, text). I think this is also true for women who are just in it to hook-up.

Upshot, I think Cowen is wrong, and it would make more sense to argue that Tinder would decrease assertive mating because it gives women more opportunities to date like men did traditionally (ie. place more emphasis on looks). My real prediction, however, is that if it has any effect it is in lessening the likelihood that men and women will form stable pair bonds. There were just many more reasons and pressures which led people to do this in the past which no longer exist, and Tinder's offer of an endless buffet of choices, I think, makes it harder for people to "settle" (which, let's face it, is part of pairing off).

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.

Not sure I agree with this.

Let's take a super-simplified model. Assume that there is "high-achievement" DNA, hDNA, and "low-achievement" DNA, lDNA. The mix that any one individual has determines their achievement level. Assume also that the rate of reproduction is independent of achievement mix.

Now, the amounts of hDNA and lDNA per capita are fixed. Assortative mating tends to concentrate the hDNA and lDNA, creating some very high achievers and some very low ones. So Tyler's suspicion is that we gain more by shifting some hDNA to someone to already has a lot of it than by leaving it with someone with less.

Is that right? I don't see why it has to be so. Of course we are enamored of the work of geniuses, but there is an awful lot of good and important and valuable work carried out by non-geniuses as well. Is the marginal change from that shift really positive?

Of course this whole argument is silly, since it way overrates the importance of purely genetic factors. Consider the upbringing and education of children. High couples will seek a good education for their kids and may (or may not) be involved and instill certain useful values and habits. But are there gains in this area from concentration? I doubt it very much.

So my suspicion is that Tyler's suspicion is wrong.

> Of course this whole argument is silly, since it way overrates the importance of purely genetic factors. Consider the upbringing and education of children.

Twin and adoption studies have consistently found family environment to explain less than 2% of the long-term adult traits and success of the offspring. In contrast genetic inheritance explains 45-55% of the variance. So yes, the heritability of achievment is almost a purely genetic story.

Very low achievers don't hurt us at all. They are in day programs or prison or on disability or so on. A small drain.

Even if you don't buy Tyler's winner-take-all theory that the very top of critical to overall performance, there's a weaker version of the theory that -- say -- the top 10% or 20% are critical and it isn't so important if performance drops off the cliff at the 25th percentile.

There's a counter argument having to do with crime and the like, but I think there are good counter-counter arguments there as well.

"Very low achievers don’t hurt us at all. They are in ... prison"

Unjustly imprisoned, no doubt.

"So Tyler’s suspicion is that we gain more by shifting some hDNA to someone to already has a lot of it than by leaving it with someone with less."

I share the same expectation. Because of technology and scalability the achievements of the few extremely highly endowed will be spread out and will increase society's productivity and output. This increase can be expected to dwarf the decrease of output that may be the result of equivalent concentration of low-endowment. This decrease will likely not even materialize due to automation and technology.


Very low achievers don’t hurt us at all. They are in day programs or prison or on disability or so on. A small drain.

You are overlooking opportunity costs.


Care to provide a cite or two.


You and Tyler could be right. We really have no way to know because we don't, AFAIK, have much in the way of useful data. But don't overlook the loss of achievement by above average but not superstar types as well. Of course part of the difference is a view of the world. I happen to believe, based on my experience, that an awful lot of what passes for brilliance by one individual is the result of a lot of hard and complex work by others.

So we take someone from being in a day program to being a wal-mart greeter, you really think that's worth giving up even modest gains on the high end? If the choice is between a gain at the 99.9th percentile versus a gain at the 80-90th percentile, I agree that'd be a tough call. But if the choice is between a gain at the 90th-99th percentile or a gain at the 1st-10th percentile that seems like an easy call.

First, we are not talking percentiles here. We are talking absolute abilities, not relative ones.

More important, why is it an easy call? That's just restating Tyler's suspicion, and your opinion. What if the cost of turning a WalMart greeter into a decent plumber is getting a bit less research in quantum mechanics or something? Is that really a clearcut choice?

A thing that we don't know - the "high achievement" genes are dominant or recessive?

This is much more complicated (because probably there are "n" genes that contibute to high achievment), but, the simplify the things, lets imagine that there is only one "high achievment gene".

If this gene is dominant (meaning that you only have to herit one gene from one of your parents to be an "high achiever"), probably non-assortative mating is better for the global production of high achievers: two low achiever parents will have 0% of high achiever children; two high achiever parents will have between 75% and 100% of high achiever children; and a "mixed" couple will have between 50% and 100% of high achiever children (then, two "mixed" couples will probably produce more high achiever children than a couple of low achievers and a couple of high achievers).

If the gene is recessive, perhaps assortative mating is better: in these case, a low-achiever couple will have between 0% and 25% of high achiever children; an high achiever couple will have 100% of high achiever children; and a mixed couple will have between 0 and 50% of high achiever children (in these case, two mixed couples will probably produce less high achiever children than a couple of low achievers and a couple of high achievers).


That adds another factor and makes simple conclusions even more suspect.

The genes are obviously recessive, but the correspondence won't be one to one; two smart people will be smart because of different and possibly incomparable genes, so the chances their offspring will be smart isn't all that high.

I suspect that (voluntarily) marking each participant with number of matches will increase the winner-*-all nature of this app.

I'm not convinced women who are on Tinder who say "no hookups" actually mean that.

First of all, Tinder is for young people and young women don't have a hard time meeting men in real life. So, for someone to go to a place that is known to be where casual sex seekers meet and announce THEY aren't at all interested in casual sex seems fishy. If I'm not in the market to buy shag carpeting that's full of vomit and fleas, I don't go shopping at the used carpet store that specializes in shag carpeting that's full of vomit and fleas. I certainly don't go there and ask where I can find silk hand-knotted rugs from Central Persia for basically the same price and get offended when I'm offered vomit and fleas.

More likely, these women are interested in hooking up (or at least open to some opportunities of it happening) but don't want their friends and colleagues knowing this should someone come across their profile, so like the Playboy readers who buy the magazine for the articles, these women are on Tinder "just for the lulz."

Which brings me to my second point: Despite their loud claims, women are not on Tinder to find their husbands. Getting married is easy. It is so easy that almost anyone can do it! Very unattractive, very poor, mentally unstable people can do it. Now, you might not be able to marry someone who meets all the required characteristics but if Tinder women were sincere in husband-hunting, rather than just stating "no hookups", which is spectacularly unhelpful, they'd actually list their requirements in order to speed up the process.

And, if the internet (and online dating in particular) is so hostile to women, why would any reasonable woman who has above-average chances of meeting someone in traditional ways subject herself to unbearable and avoidable sexual harassment online? If she'll assume the risk of verbal abuse from potential suitors, she must be very motivated to meet someone using this platform and I doubt she will be in the top 5-10% of all available women (or perhaps she's more resilient and online interactions are not emotionally harmful to her). So compared to the top 5-10% of the men she's vying for (attractive, educated, marriage-minded men in their 20s are quite rare), she won't have the upper hand, so making brusque dismissals right out of the gate just seems more like an attempt to demonstrate dominance. The point is, the women who really don't want to hook up aren't on Tinder and the ones who do say that on Tinder aren't being honest.

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