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The Geography of Online Dating

When looking for love, most people don’t look far from home. That's what a big-data analysis of interactions on a dating site revealed.
Couples dance during a "Tango by Moonlight" evening in Boston.
Couples dance during a "Tango by Moonlight" evening in Boston.Brian Snyder/Reuters

Do we search far and wide for love? Not so much, it turns out.

Most heterosexual singles search for a match close to where they live, according to a new paper in Sociological Science by Elizabeth Bruch and Mark Newman, both of the University of Michigan and Santa Fe Institute. Their study is based on a big-data analysis of interactions on a major online dating platform. (The researchers were required not to identify the site as a condition of conducting the research.) Specifically, the study analyzes some 15 million two-way exchanges between heterosexual users on the site. Bruch and Newman use these data points to assess the roles of age, gender, race, and proximity in heterosexual dating markets.