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The distribution is roughly consistent across cities, and although women receive more messages than men overall, the distributions for both display a classic “long-tailed” form—most people receive a handful of messages at most, but a small fraction of the population receive far more.
The most popular individual in our four cities, a 30-year-old woman living in New York, received 1504 messages during the period of observation, equivalent to one message every 30 min, day and night, for the entire month.
At the simplest level, one can quantify desirability by the number of messages a user receives and specifically the number of initial messages, since it is the first contact between a pair of individuals that most reliably indicates who finds whom attractive.
Figure 1 shows the distribution of this quantity separately for men and women in each of the cities.
Romantic courtship is often described as taking place in a dating market where men and women compete for mates, but the detailed structure and dynamics of dating markets have historically been difficult to quantify for lack of suitable data.
In recent years, however, the advent and vigorous growth of the online dating industry has provided a rich new source of information on mate pursuit.
We show that competition for mates creates a pronounced hierarchy of desirability that correlates strongly with user demographics and is remarkably consistent across cities.
A scaled rank of 1 denotes the most desirable man or woman in a city by our measure, and 0 denotes the least desirable.
It is important to emphasize that, while we use Page Rank as an operational measure of desirability, we do not assume that users of the website themselves use Page Rank, or anything like it, to identify attractive mates.
Strategic behaviors can improve one’s chances of attracting a more desirable mate, although the effects are modest.).
One possible explanation for this is the matching hypothesis, which suggests that men and women pursue partners who resemble themselves.