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You know, I was aware that the online dating services were making money.(I actually spent a good deal on them and it worked out well enough for me.) I was fascinated by the relationship you made that parallels dating services. With a growing Unemployment pool, I see also who the big employment online search engines gear up. I Just heard of "Dice' resently for tech professionals. That is out of my league though. I have had some lead with career builder, but your post did send me thinking of how and to who such services cater to.

James N. Markels

The real problem that Internet sorting mechanisms, such as online dating sites, have is in ensuring that the individuals accurately sort themselves. Participants are trusted to provide information about themselves that is reliable, but sometimes it is not (even when the participant is trying to be truthful). With unreliable information comes unreliable sorting. Worse, once we start trusting these sites to do the sorting for us, we might start overlooking this fact and trust the sorter more than our own intuition. In other words, even though we all know that information posted online is not necessarily accurate, we may implicitly trust Match.com's results more than we should anyway, because of their asserted track record.

The next step in these online matchmaking ventures is to incorporate offline verification and/or analysis of individual traits before sorting.




The belief that it is the technology doing the work of the process is problematic. I am not sure that I would trust someone who puts his/her fate in the hands of the internet. It is a lottery of sorts. The same erroneous thinking is that technology rather than unique individuals do the work of government, law or medicine. What is "the official report" of the CT scan?" Do you mean what is my opinion?

Kevin M

Job matching web sites' managers claim that they develop tools in order to facilitate matches between job seekers and vacancies and at the same time provide equivalent assistance to both sides of the market. Standard economic theory goes along with this logic of “bilateral” or “balanced” action. But empirical evidence suggests (at least in some countries) that actual practice is more favourable to recruiters than job-seekers : the matchmaker is a selector rather than a facilitator. Observations reveal that the information available to applicants is subject to a high degree of filtering achieved through the use of pre-defined lists, keywords or input fields. A comparative analysis of job offers posted on the Internet with those posted in newspapers shows that web-based search tools have a considerable impact on ad content which is generally more standardized and quantified in the former than in the latter. Furthermore, a comparison between French and British ads demonstrates that the institutional context influences the actions taken by job boards. In contrast to Great Britain, France more frequently uses matching markers aimed at selecting applicants than those providing detailed information on the job offer. (http://economix.u-paris10.fr/docs/34/MMR_HumanRelations_VFinale_Mai2007.pdf)

David Heigham

The large increases in matching efficiency will come when the systems include a good volume of employee review of employers (Amazon style?) and syatematic feedback notes from previous contacts attached to your page at dating sites. The speed and low cost of internet contact improves matching; but Internet's potential for improved information flows (as in the best of B2B ) can radically lower the losses we accept from to matching that could have been better.

David Evans

Dating sites are quite like job boards in that you don't interview or date online, you browse people and jobs, then take the communication into other digital channels or f2f.

Dating sites are terrible at matching people. If you do the math it comes out to something like 0.0001% success rate.

We need to crack the code about what attributes are required to make a good couple (whatever that is) before dating sites can be considered universally helpful. Right now we're stumbling around in the dark, but give it a decade and I think we'll start to see some of the current research improving the online matchmaking process.

Richard York

As I'm retired, I cannot speak to the job search websites. As a divorcee after a fairly long (34 years) marriage, the whole dating process was a little intimidating. Online dating services, like so many other businesses on the internet, provided a low barrier to entry. It also eliminated some of the awkwardness of first encounters. One one has been through the process, one knows a little more about the potential match than on a completely blind date.

I wish I could say that it's been successful romantically. It has not. But, I have been lucky enough to meet some interesting people.


Just one question, as in any communication medium, "Truth in Advertising"? I much prefer, face to face communication. There is far more communication that goes on in such situations and the elimination of some as well, than occurs in just plain text.


Nice post!

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I cannot agree more, actually I wrote a similar post weeks ago


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Charles R. Williams

I met my wife on match.com 12 years ago. We are ecstatically happy. The price of one month's service was well worth it.

I would advise other people to do the same provided they understand that the more polished a person appears, the more likely they are to be misrepresenting themselves. This has always happened but the internet makes it easier.

I would also advise people to meet as soon as is practical in a very casual setting.

The bottom line is that you will not be happy in marriage unless both of you believe in it, are capable and willing to make sacrifices every day to assure the happiness of your spouse and are people of virtue and integrity. Look for these things.


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Great article! Food for thought! (Slightly OT?)

Toward a New Sustainable Economy
March 26, 2009 by Real World Economics Review
by Robert Costanza

The current financial meltdown is the result of under-regulated markets built on an ideology of free market capitalism and unlimited economic growth. The fundamental problem is that the underlying assumptions of this ideology are not consistent with what we now know about the real state of the world. The financial world is, in essence, a set of markers for goods, services, and risks in the real world and when those markers are allowed to deviate too far from reality, "adjustments" must ultimately follow and crisis and panic can ensue.

To solve this and future financial crisis requires that we reconnect the markers with reality. What are our real assets and how valuable are they? To do this requires both a new vision of what the economy is and what it is for, proper and comprehensive accounting of real assets, and new institutions that use the market in its proper role of servant rather than master.

The mainstream vision of the economy is based on a number of assumptions that were created during a period when the world was still relatively empty of humans and their built infrastructure. In this "empty world" context, built capital was the limiting factor, while natural capital and social capital were abundant. It made sense, in that context, not to worry too much about environmental and social "externalities" since they could be assumed to be relatively small and ultimately solvable.

It made sense to focus on the growth of the market economy, as measured by GDP, as a primary means to improve human welfare. It made sense, in that context, to think of the economy as only marketed goods and services and to think of the goal as increasing the amount of these goods and services produced and consumed.

But the world has changed dramatically. We now live in a world relatively full of humans and their built capital infrastructure. In this new context, we have to first remember that the goal of the economy is to sustainably improve human well-being and quality of life.

We have to remember that material consumption and GDP are merely means to that end, not ends in themselves. We have to recognize, as both ancient wisdom and new psychological research tell us, that material consumption beyond real need can actually reduce well-being. We have to better understand what really does contribute to sustainable human well-being, and recognize the substantial contributions of natural and social capital, which are now the limiting factors in many countries. We have to be able to distinguish between real poverty in terms of low quality of life, and merely low monetary income.

Ultimately we have to create a new model of the economy and development that acknowledges this new full world context and vision.

This new model of development would be based clearly on the goal of sustainable human well-being. It would use measures of progress that clearly acknowledge this goal. It would acknowledge the importance of ecological sustainability, social fairness, and real economic efficiency. Ecological sustainability implies recognizing that natural and social capital are not infinitely substitutable for built and human capital, and that real biophysical limits exist to the expansion of the market economy.

Social fairness implies recognizing that the distribution of wealth is an important determinant of social capital and quality of life. The conventional model has bought into the assumption that the best way to improve welfare is through growth in marketed consumption as measured by GDP. This focus on growth has not improved overall societal welfare and explicit attention to distribution issues is sorely needed.

As Robert Frank has argued in his latest book: Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class, economic growth beyond a certain point sets up a "positional arms race" that changes the consumption context and forces everyone to consume too much of positional goods (like houses and cars) at the expense of non-marketed, non-positional goods and services from natural and social capital.

For example, this drive to consume more positional goods leads people to reach beyond their means to purchase ever larger and more expensive houses, fueling the housing bubble. It also fuels increasing inequality of income which actually reduces overall societal well-being, not just for the poor, but across the income spectrum.

Real economic efficiency implies including all resources that affect sustainable human well-being in the allocation system, not just marketed goods and services. Our current market allocation system excludes most non-marketed natural and social capital assets and services that are critical contributors to human well-being. The current economic model ignores this and therefore does not achieve real economic efficiency. A new, sustainable ecological economic model would measure and include the contributions of natural and social capital and could better approximate real economic efficiency.

The new model would also acknowledge that a complex range of property rights regimes are necessary to adequately manage the full range of resources that contribute to human well-being. For example, most natural and social capital assets are public goods. Making them private property does not work well. On the other hand, leaving them as open access resources (with no property rights) does not work well either. What is needed is a third way to propertize these resources without privatizing them. Several new (and old) common property rights systems have been proposed to achieve this goal, including various forms of common property trusts.

The role of government also needs to be reinvented. In addition to government's role in regulating and policing the private market economy, it has a significant role to play in expanding the "commons sector", that can propertize and manage non-marketed natural and social capital assets. It also has a major role as facilitator of societal development of a shared vision of what a sustainable and desirable future would look like. As Tom Prugh, myself, and Herman Daly have argued in our book "The Local Politics of Global Sustainability," strong democracy based on developing a shared vision is an essential prerequisite to building a sustainable and desirable future.

The long term solution to the financial crisis is therefore to move beyond the "growth at all costs" economic model to a model that recognizes the real costs and benefits of growth.We can break our addiction to fossil fuels, over-consumption, and the current economic model and create a more sustainable and desirable future that focuses on quality of life rather than merely quantity of consumption.

It will not be easy; it will require a new vision, new measures, and new institutions. It will require a redesign of our entire society. But it is not a sacrifice of quality of life to break this addiction. Quite the contrary, it is a sacrifice not to.

2009 Real World Economics Review
Robert Costanza, Ph.D, is Gordon and Lulie Gund Professor of Ecological Economics and Director, Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, The University of Vermont. He can be contacted at: Robert.Costanza(at)uvm.edu


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Chris Graves

I agree that there are real benefits to increased ability to sort through potential mates, friends, contractors, and employers/employees provided by the internet increasing the pool of these prospective personal and business partners. I have just bought an older house and have found folks to do work for me on the internet. In the past, I have found close friends talking online with people in chat rooms. So, what Professor Becker is saying has been borne out in my personal experience.

At the same time, I have seen real problems develop in the increased social interactions on the internet. One is the crowding problem. When I first came on the internet about 10 years ago, I tried AOL and could not make sense of the chat areas. I had also had a free trial for Compuserve and tried it after a few weeks of exasperation of trying to grasp what was going on in the AOL chat rooms. Within a few minutes of signing onto Compuserve, I was in chat rooms with folks who were intelligent and personally respectful. Over a period of a few months, I came to know professional, well-educated people all around the world.

Then something happened. There was a huge influx of teens and working class people who were incredibly coarse and vulgar. There was also a enormous number of people looking for sexual stimulation--either by what is known as "cybering" (graphic depictions of sex contrived on the spot in chats) or people overtly soliciting adulterous liaisons. As AOL took over Compuserve, I found that this decline in the quality of conversational partners accelerated.

I then turned to MSN chat where I found many more local people to talk with online. I am sorry to report that the trends I noticed on Compuserve were much worse on MSN. I finally gave up chatting online. I continued friendships with a few people on Instant Messenger and via the telephone with a few in person. But now I do not chat at all on the internet. The sheer quantity of people chatting online increased dramatically making it more difficult to find anyone in particular with whom I might want to converse with while the overall quality in terms of intelligence, education, and personal character declined dramatically over time.

It seems that the increased availability of computers and online services opened the door for all sorts of people to enter chat rooms. The newly found anonymity eased a constraint on many who had a taste for raunchy and mean-spirited conversation. The influx of these people brought about a sort of Gresham's Law of chat rooms where the inferior quality participants drove out the higher quality participants.

There is also the tendency for online relationships to reinforce tastes and preferences that people already have. This can be a good thing in many cases, but in the case of teens and young adults who have not acquired mature or sophisticated tastes, their callow perspective is continually reinforced by the internet providing a constant supply of conversational partners who share their shallow tastes and interests. Mark Beuerlein in his book, *The Dumbest Generation,* makes this point.

Instead of teens and young adults being forcibly exposed to adult interests and conversations by necessity, they can now seek out and find 24/7 those who prefer to discuss the latest Brittney Spears publicity stunt to discussing the economy or the War in Iraq or mature reflections on the course of one's life that they might find if they talked more with their parents or grandparents. Young adults and teens can seek out such blogs as this one, and some do, but most do not. Even when one encounters young people in serious forums, they tend to become hysterical if someone disagrees with them, no matter how respectfully. I might add that many middle-aged adults can have this reaction too. I was on the American Psychological Association Division 32 listserv for years having thoughtful exchanges with some of its members until other more strident members could not stomach my comments anymore. People need to be forced by circumstances to be immersed in more serious concerns as well as a diversity of viewpoints. Otherwise, they will not be hoisted up to a higher level. There minds simply will not gravitate to questions and perspectives to which they are not exposed.


"Dating sites are terrible at matching people. If you do the math it comes out to something like 0.0001% success rate."

I'd like to see that math; Are you assuming that the site isn't successful if it doesn't end up with everybody matched to everybody else? Generally people go to dating sites to find, in the end, just one person.

I found my present wife by online international dating, and we're both very happy. One of the remarkable changes the internet brings to dating and matchmaking is that it allows you to date people you'd never have physically met without it's intermediation, even people thousands of miles away. Comparative advantage works in love, not just business.


Dear Mr Becker,
I am a high school senior taking a class in Economics. My teacher Mr Ch'en is great and he inspires his students to really think like we will have to think in the real world. Mr Ch'en gave me a paper to read and to write about you. It is a profile discussing your views on how marriage is a economic decision.
I did some research to find out if you were married and I tried to see if your choice of a wife, either your first wife or your current wife, was made by you using economic guides in the "marriage market" as you call it. You say in the profile that people tend to marry on the basis of "imperfect information". My question is did you apply your principles in your chocie of wives? Why do you not consider love a factor in the choice of a spouse? Thank you, Bianca 4/11/09

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