Does online dating affect assortative mating? The case of educational, racial and religious endogamy

Gina Potarca, University of Groningen

During the last years online dating became increasingly popular, transforming the dating landscape and the process of relationship initiation. This study revisits Blau’s social structure theory and the supply perspective on assortative mating by exploring the role played by digital marriage markets, particularly online dating sites, in breeding couples’ socio-demographic similarity. It examines the educational, racial and religious endogamy of couples that met through online dating platforms compared to couples whose context of meeting was related to other online venues or conventional intermediaries such as friends, family, neighbors, school, workplace, leisure, religious venues, and others. I explore the importance of meeting venues for couples’ endogamy among 2,970 partnered individuals in the U.S. The ‘How Couples Meet and Stay Together’ survey data enables an innovative test of assortative mating in online dating settings. The partnership market of Internet dating provides easy access to a large pool of prospective mates, potential similarity-based matchmaking algorithms, and systemized interfaces for browsing along key socio-demographic traits. Given these particularities, I hypothesize that online dating promotes more educational, racial and religious endogamy compared to both conventional and other online meeting settings. Using log-multiplicative models that allow for the strength of partners’ association to vary along meeting settings, I find that contrary to expectations, online dating displays weaker endogamy patterns compared to other contexts of meeting. This finding contests the universal norm of endogamy and shows that Internet dating contributes to alleviating social barriers between groups and it adds to the overall decreasing trends in couple endogamy.

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Presented in Session 26: Assortative mating and religiousness