Economists and Tinder: Why economists don’t find each other on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us and in a recent article from The Economist, it was asked why more economists don’t find love with other economists. Would economists benefit from a dating app made just for them? Perhaps this would maximize efficiency in the dating market, or perhaps there’s a reason economists aren’t drawn to each other.

They explain that the first obstacle for love between economists is that the market is not thick enough—economics is a field dominated by men. For an “economists only” dating app to work, the market would have to be thick enough to generate network externalities. This all means, of course, that economists have to want to date each other. Later I’ll explain why that might not necessarily be the case.

Perhaps market thickness is something that a dating app would encourage instead of require, though. In this interview with Quartz, Nobel Prize winner Alvin Roth explains the disincentive to long-term relationships since dating apps have thickened the market and made it easier to find new relationships when old ones become challenging.

In the last few decades, long-term relationships have decreased in frequency. Ironically, this is in part because there is an increasingly long list of ways to meet potential partners. Women are going to college more and more, which means that the incentive to marry your high-school sweetheart has gone down. Similarly, women’s participation in the labor market has also increased, adding the workplace to the list of places to find love.

All of these new possibilities mean that the dating market is much thicker than it ever has been, and dating apps have responded to that by providing a way to meet many people in quick succession and only allow a connection in the event that mutual interest is indicated.

Sure, dating apps are increasingly popular, but that might not mean that an app just for economists to find love would work. While there is a gender imbalance in the field, that might not be the only reason we don’t see more “economist super-couples”. Economists are notably more selfish in bargaining situations, and as we know that about each other, rationally we are not likely to choose a selfish partner.

So, although we can all agree that the world would benefit from more economists dating other economists, it is possible that we are in fact making the rational choice by not dating one another. Maybe we’re meant to date other people so that economic-themed dinner conversation can reach a wider population.

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