Income Attraction: An Online Dating Field Experiment
29 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2015 Last revised: 29 Apr 2018
Date Written: February 16, 2015
We measured gender differences in preferences for mate income ex-ante to interaction (“income attraction”) in a field experiment on one of China’s largest online dating websites. To rule out unobserved factors correlated with income as the basis of attraction, we randomly assigned income levels to 360 artificial profiles and recorded the incomes of nearly 4,000 “visits” to our full profiles from search engine results. We found that men of all income levels visited our female profiles of different income levels at roughly equal rates. In contrast, women of all income levels visited our male profiles with higher incomes at higher rates. Surprisingly, these higher rates increased with the women’s own incomes and even jumped discontinuously when the male profiles’ incomes went above that of the women’s own. Our male profiles with the highest level of income received ten times more visits than the lowest. This gender difference in ex-ante preferences for mate income could help explain marriage and spousal income patterns found in prior empirical studies.
Keywords: online dating, field experiment, gender differences, matching, marriage
JEL Classification: C93, J01, J12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation