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The Strength of Absent Ties: Social Integration via Online Dating

In his paper Josue Ortega, who recently joined the Department of Economics, presents evidence that the way we meet our spouses has drastically changed in the last 15 years.

  • Date

    Thu 9 Nov 17

josue ortega

Josue holds a PhD from the University of Glasgow and an MSc from the Vienna Institute for Advanced Studies. He uses economic theory to understand the dynamics of social integration. His research has been featured in the MIT Technology Review, New Scientist, The Times, The Financial Times, and the BBC. Before joining Essex, Josue was a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York City.

Online dating is responsible for one-third of modern marriages and allows people to date complete strangers. This is a stark difference with traditional ways to meet a partner, when it was likely to date someone who either lived in your neighbourhood, attended the same school or church, or who had the same friends as you, i.e people who were loosely connected to you.

Because we have traditionally shared these loose connections with people of our own race, it is no surprise that the interracial marriage rates in our societies are so low (9% for the UK, 6% for the US).

Josue builds a mathematical model of social networks that suggests that online dating should substantially increase the number of interracial marriages in our societies.

He provides evidence showing that in fact, the fraction of new marriages that are interracial in the US rose substantially after the introduction of online dating. Without claiming causation, he argues that the data are consistent with his model. While online dating is often treated as a trivial and frivolous application of new technology, applications like online dating can, then, have a large effect on the diversity of our societies.

Read Josue's paper