Aspirational Dating Quantified

You've heard about people trying to date someone "out of their league," and people who manage to "marry up," but how can you really measure that? There are so many different qualities that go into desirability: looks, education, income, age, and of course, virtue and personality. However, online dating gives us the digital tools to actually measure an individual's desirability in relation to others -at least during initial contact. Sociology professor Elizabeth Bruch of the University of Michigan crunched the numbers of 186,000 heterosexual users of one online dating system in four cities for a month.

Imagine for a second that you are one of the users Bruch and her colleagues studied—in fact, imagine that you are a very desirable user. Your specific desirability rank would have been generated by two figures: whether other desirable people contacted you, and whether other desirable people responded when you contacted them. If you contacted a much less desirable person, their desirability score would rise; if they contacted you and you replied, then your score would fall.

The team had to analyze both first messages and first replies, because, well, men usually make the first move. “A defining feature of heterosexual online dating is that, in the vast majority of cases, it is men who establish the first contact—more than 80 percent of first messages are from men in our data set,” the study says. But “women reply very selectively to the messages they receive from men—their average reply rate is less than 20 percent—so women’s replies … can give us significant insight about who they are interested in.”

The study found that online daters commonly approach or respond to people who are an average of 25% more desirable than they are. Some reached even higher, but hardly anyone reached out to potential dates who are less desirable. What is most intriguing (and depressing) about the study are the factors they found that determine the desirability score. For example, women's desirability peaks at age 18, while men's score holds pretty steady through adulthood, peaking at 50. Read about more factors that go into one's desirability score at The Atlantic. It might cause you to swear off online dating forever. -via Digg   

(Image credit: Thomas8047)

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