After his 20-year marriage ended in divorce, Stanford economics professor Paul Oyer decided to try online dating. His economic sensibilities helped him navigate the plethora of online profiles and understand trends in dating preferences. In the process, he found that the online dating “market” offers a useful case study for teaching economics to novices. Oyer joins us to talk about his new book, “Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Economics I Learned From Online Dating.”

Paul Oyer, professor of economics at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and author of "Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Economics I Learned from Online Dating"

  • Guest

    How many online dating companies are getting funding from the NSA, or other nefarious organizations that have more than an economic interest in people’s personal and intimate details? I certainly expect online dating companies to betray customers by cynically and routinely selling users’ personal details to marketing companies but I’d be surprised if some are not also aligned with the Stasi-like NSA.

    Do note. Most dating sites not even support HTTPS which would prevent snooping. Canada based POF doesn’t even offer secure login!

    • olive

      Wanna comment on the ethics of the online dating companies (rather than the NSA) assuming your theory is correct? Seems like they’re the problem in your theory.

      • Guest

        Almost all tech companies sell out their users. Many of. these companies have dubious business models to start with, so I’m sure a govt agency offering cash would be welcomed and may even become the main source of funds.

        There is no free lunch

        The prices that some companies charge to the govt can be seen at

  • Selostaja

    A Beautiful Mind Gaming Theory Version 2?

  • Angela

    I had terrible experiences with online dating until I met my husband. The big change was that I took out all the white lies that made me sound good and wrote all the things I was looking for in a partner. I went from making myself seem widely attractive to scaring off everyone except the kind of man I was looking for. It worked. I met my husband, we were married a year later. That was 8 years ago and I tell everyone I know to be honest in online dating. You get fewer responses, but you get what your want.

    -Angela in Los Gatos

  • Dave Kieffer

    Too much econ jargon . . . e.g., he told an interesting anecdote about reactions to on-line buyers looking at phones for sale held by white hands vs. black. He said it was “statistically-based vs. xxxxxxxxx” . . . with no explanation.

  • Mary

    Two people told me that men on dating sites would not respond to a woman’s expressed interest – that I should sit and wait for them. My short experience proved that to be true. What is your take on this??

  • Teri

    My husband and I met on a online dating site for people over 50. What attracted me to his profile picture, it was at Disneyland, in shorts with a brace on his knee, and obviously a man over 50 and not afraid to look a little silly in his picture.

    A year later, we were married and having the time of our lives! We are coming up on our 2 year anniversary.

  • geraldfnord

    I think there is a lot of truth here, but I also think it an illustration of ‘The Market’ as totalising metaphor. The term is but reification of a wealth of human attitudes, capabilities and interactions, and just one potential value- and utility-estimator of many (many of which are far worse in all or most domains, e.g. race and class prejudice, but some of which were better, e.g. doing and allowing nothing barbarous), but once in the mind it were easy for many to assume that it were a perfect map describing all the territory well. (I speak as someone who’s known ec. juniors at Caltech, associates with publicans and Libertarian Party members, and also has known a few orthodox Marxists: some people, especially those like me with an autistic taint, very easily take to algorithms as substitutes for both observation [apart from the confirmatory] and for thought [apart from Right Thinking]. I, of course, am free from any such errors in thought—all my thinking tells me so!)

    Yes, there is and always will be something of a market in love and marriage, considered jointly and severally, but we generally disapprove of those who act as pure Pareto optimisers, especially as often misconstrued to be anything but purely selfish. Every model has domains of validity and of utility…acting decently could be modelled with extreme cost/utility values for some activities, but I think it better to say ‘This needs a different model.’ and admit ignorance that we might know more later.

    Or, put less stupidly and more plainly, the metaphor of ‘The Market’, like love itself, should be appreciated for its virtues and deprecated for its faults, but those both must be open to observation and evaluation—that is to say, on no account should they be worshipped.

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