Lovers have always used matchmakers and market-places. Pandarus, a Trojan with a knack for pairing off warriors and damsels, turns up in Chaucer and Shakespeare. Jane Austen’s heroines inspect lines of dancing men in public assembly rooms. Modern wooing, however, is increasingly done on the internet: 15% of Americans have used a dating website or app, according to a 2015 survey by the Pew Research Centre, up from 1% in 2005.
Young people are, unsurprisingly, more comfortable with looking for love online – but so is the “liberal elite”. Americans from households with an annual income of more than $75,000 are nearly twice as likely to know an online suitor as those earning less than $30,000. A similar disparity exists between those who identify as “very liberal” and “very conservative”. The ratio between college graduates and high-school dropouts is almost four to one.
One possible reason is convenience. People with impressive degrees and fat wallets are often pressed for time, and are more likely to agree that online dating is efficient – though not by much. A more plausible explanation is open-mindedness. Affluent, high-achieving Americans are comparatively reluctant to describe online daters as desperate.
Many use popular forums like Match.com (a website whose members exchange 400m messages a year) or Tinder (an app that produces 26m matches a day). But there are also more discerning services on offer. Among subscribers to EliteSingles.com, 87% have university degrees: the algorithm that matches them takes into account their income, profession and education. The League, a mobile app, will only “draft” you once it has scanned your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles and deemed you suitably high-achieving: 100,000 people are on the waiting list. Applicants for Luxy, a similar product, must earn at least $200,000 a year. A tax return or bank statement will suffice as proof.
Algorithms aren’t for everyone. Consultancies charging tens of thousands of dollars – some of which claim a 90% success rate in matching partners – tend to use psychologists, rather than statisticians, to play Cupid. Some offer lessons in charm – which those willing to shell out so much cash for a date may well need.
Source: Pew Research Centre