Online Dating Is Causing Singles To Date People From More Diverse Backgrounds

Changing Who We Date
With online dating fast becoming one of the top ways new relationships are started, researchers are increasingly interested in looking at how internet dating might be affecting society.

A recent study by Gina Potârcă from the University of Lausanne argues that online dating platforms help to broaden people’s search for a partner, therefore causing singles to date people from different social circles and backgrounds.

The report, entitled “Does the Internet Affect Assortative Mating? The Case of Educational, Racial and Religious Endogamy”, first states that the internet offers singletons a much larger pool of potential partners.

And because of this, Potârcă argues, people are increasingly turning away from endogamy – the custom of marrying only within the limits of a local community, clan, or tribe – and swaying more towards dating those from different religions, educational backgrounds, ethnicities & races.

Potârcă says: “The ongoing shifts in work and family life and the decline of traditional settings of meeting and mating mean that individuals become progressively more in charge with the process of finding a partner.

“Against this backdrop, the Internet as dating environment surged in popularity, fundamentally changing the dating landscape and the process of relationship initiation.”

To prove this, the study looked at the relationship details of people from the US and Germany, taking data from US-based study “How Couples Meet & Stay Together” and the “German Family Panel”.

From this data, Potârcă was able to look at the education level, race/ethnicity and religion of the 2,970 partnered individuals aged 19-95 whose results were used in the study.

The researcher then analysed the results, examining the key socio-demographic characteristics of the partnered people in relation to the various meeting settings, finding that the couples who met online showed much weaker endogamy compared to those who met in traditional ways.

Explaining her findings, Potârcă said: “In both countries online settings display weaker endogamy patterns compared to conventional settings usually linked to high couple endogamy rates, such as school, personal networks of family (and friends to a lower extent), or religious venues.

“School settings are confirmed as contexts that promote high levels of positive sorting along education or religion.

“Family networks are also shown to promote more endogamy than online settings, especially with respect to the ascribed characteristics of race/ ethnicity and religion, reflecting the high level of homogeneity of family-based ties.

“Organised and highly homogeneous religious settings foster high levels of couple similarity as well, particularly when it comes to religion.

“When compared to other, generally more heterogeneous contexts of meeting and mating such as leisure, work (in the U.S.), or voluntary organisations, the Internet does not reveal significantly different patterns of couple endogamy.”

The research also argues that online dating helps to promote more mobility & social flexibility between potential partners because it enables people to search for, and choose, partners based on a larger selection of factors, such as interests & personality traits.

However despite these promising effects, the study did reveal that there is still a huge potential for growth for online dating, as only 7% of Americans and 5.7% of Germans who were surveyed actually met their partners online.

As Potârcă explains: “Most U.S. respondents mention having met their partner via leisure settings (40.3%) or through friends (36.6%), whereas German respondents most often specify that they met their match via friends (33.3%). ”

To read the full study please click here.