July 15, 2010
Posted by Jay Livingston
OK Cupid may not be the largest online dating site, but it has the best data analysis – not surprising since its founders are Harvard math grads. They use the demographic data their subscribers provide, and they can trace the paths of messages – who sends to who, who responds to who.
Last week, Christian Rudder, one of the founders, posted some detective work they did to assess the truthfulness of their customers. For example, the height distribution of their male subscribers is about two inches to the right of the national distribution. Either the OK Cupid guys are an unusually tall bunch, or they were standing on tiptoe when they filled out the form.
They don’t need Randy Newman to suspect that the shorter a guy is, the less interested women will be. And they’re right (up to about 6' 1")
They may be liars, but they’re not fools.
It’s not surprising that people stretch the truth and their height. But why would people on a dating site lie about their sexual orientation? Yet the OK Cupid analysts found a difference between reported and observed behavior, at least for those who put their orientation as “bi.” Less than 25% of men who claimed to be bisexual actually sent messages to both men and women.
More likely, they weren’t lying. My guess is that the younger men were using OK Cupid as place to cautiously explore their homosexual tendencies. Maybe they were truly bisexual and didn’t need a dating service to find women. Or maybe they were homosexual but hadn’t yet come to identify themselves as such. Rudder speculates that as gay men age into their thirties, they no longer need to claim that they are bisexual. But that still doesn’t explain why even among the older self-identified bisexual men, only about one in seven is looking for both male and female partners.
The data on women do not show so dramatic a change with age.
But as with the men, most women who identify themselves as bisexual send all their messages to either women or men, not both.
UPDATE, July 16: There are lies, and then there are lies.