Economics and E-Harmony

Today I’m going to comment on a new technological solution to an age old problem, finding an ideal marriage partner.   At some point in life, single people decide that they want to marry.  Young people who have never been married are looking for Mr. or Mrs. “right”.  Divorced or widowed people may also be seeking a marriage partner.  The “marriage search” has been going on for centuries…heck…even millennia.  Now, thanks to the internet, it is this economist’s opinion that the quantity of available candidates has vastly increased and the quality of one’s eventual choice is likely to be better than before.

The economist would say that internet dating sights are “more efficient” if they can (1) reduce the costs of the search, (2) broaden the number of potential matches, or (3) increase the quality of match outcomes.

Let’s go back to 1895.  You’re an 18 year old boy, living on a farm 8 miles south of Hebron, Nebraska.  You get to town once or twice a month via horse.  Every three months there is a barn dance in town, which you attend whenever you can.  At the dance there are five females between the ages of 16 and 24.  That’s your marriage market!  Chances are you’ll either marry one of those 5 girls or remain a bachelor for life.  The same is true for the girls, of course.

If you lived in Chicago in 1895, you would probably have met your marriage partner at a church social or in a local drinking establishment.  While your “market” would be a lot larger than Hebron, no matter what the population of your town, the number of people you meet would be limited to the few friends or the small number of places (church, school, club, etc.) that you frequent.

With internet dating sites the costs of the search are lessened and the number of potential matches is greatly increased.  One can literally review the files of a hundred potential matches in an evening or two; more matches than would ordinarily be considered in several lifetimes!  The internet substantially broadens the number of people that can be considered as a marriage partner; people you would never have met otherwise.

The quality of the search is also enhanced with the internet.  We now have access to relatively sophisticated dating websites.  Some sites, like E-Harmony ask you to fill in a questionnaire that establishes a personality profile to help you match similar profiles from potential mates.  The personality match asks questions about your views on religion, children, and other similar factors.  For example, if a young lady is looking for a suitor and her goal is marriage and children, she can look at the question about children.  If the boy indicates that he does not want children, she can eliminate him from her search, concentrating on the lads that answer “Yes” to that question.  This increases the “quality” of the search for both parties.  Neither of them will waste their time dating someone, only to find out later that they disagree about having children.

While the internet may seem to be a strange place to meet someone, in my opinion there should be no stigma attached to an internet match.  After all, they are very efficient, cost effective, and have a quality coefficient that exceeds earlier methods of match-screening.  For sure there are insincere and dishonest people who list on dating sites, but there are also plenty of creeps hanging around the local tavern or possibly even your church basement!  The internet is simply a screening mechanism, so it is always wise to gather at a crowded public place when meeting face to face for the first time.  I know three couples who found each other on E-Harmony.  One couple is in their fifties, the other two are in their thirties.  All of these couples seem very happy and would never have found each other without the aid of the internet.

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