Commentary: Has Dating Become Similar to the Job Market?

A study done on speed dating shows how choosing a mate is almost like choosing an economic plan.

For single men today, dating sometimes resembles a job hunt more than a new beginning to bond with a woman. This type of environment can be a stressful one for some men, who worry about making a good first impression.

Ryan Howlett II, a 26-year-old longshoreman in Seattle, says you know a date has began to turn into a job interview when “women are under the impression that they need to find out everything about you on the first date and then want to change it.”

“The beauty with a speed date is in a short amount of time you can come to find out whether you want to continue seeing that woman or just leave her alone,” said Howlett about his recent experience. A Fall 2005 study done by the Columbia University Business School, “Dating Data: Economic Theory and the Search for a Mate” sheds light on the dating market compatibility to economics.

The study found that men and women choose dates based on their ideal character traits based a four figure salary and his religion. As a person moves from one date to the next they compare and analyze each one to eventually choose the person that fits best with their ideal qualities. A quick lesson in Economics 101 would explain the process of analyzing and comparing as microeconomics; it studies the process of decision-making inside a small environment.

The study, done at the Columbia University School of Business between participating students on the campus, required each student to meet with perspective mates, and then choose one based on the profile they liked the best.

Ultimately, the study concluded that men preferring beauty to brains and women wanting a wealthy man are current trends.

Raymond Fisman, an associate professor of finance at Columbia, asked women what they felt men cared about and found out that “surprisingly, what they say the average man cares about lines up much more closely with what they actually reveal through their actions than what they claimed they cared about beforehand.”

Stephanie Welch, a 24 year-old advertising assistant from Oakland, is convinced that four minutes of analyzing through speed dating is all you need to decide if the man is a potential mate.

“A couple of minutes are all I need. I pay special attention to his eyes and the tone of his voice when he’s talking to me. A speed date still takes place in a social environment, so if he’s into me it will show,” said Welch.

Dating may be comparable to the job market because, in both instances, the first impression determines one’s success. For women, comparing and analyzing options are key to finding out which potential men match their personalities. For men, looks still rates high on what they’re looking for.

However, can a study done on speed-dating accurately judge traditional dating methods where physical appearance and intelligence play major roles in choosing a mate.

Traditionally, a man approaches or becomes acquainted with a woman at a party or another social event. There is no limit on the amount of time they spend with each other and at the end, no one hands them a personality profile showing them they’re a perfect match.

“I don’t understand it,” Adam Vicks, a 22-year-old production assistant from D.C., said about using speed dating to find a mate. “To me it makes things awkward. I would like to get to know each other on a friendly, platonic level first. A speed date does not offer me enough time.” In the end, the study showed that the information gathered from the speed-dating candidates was helpful to determine that no matter the type of setting, men and women are going to choose based on their own desires.

“The fact that you still see consistent, statistically overwhelming differences in the way men and women choose dates suggests that there’s something deeper there, Fisman said. “With all the main results, if anything, I would expect bigger effects in the broader population.”