Meeting opportunities and partner selection: a field study

Publication type

Research Paper


Publication date

January 1, 2010


Much empirical evidence shows that female and male partners look alike along a variety of attributes. It is however unclear how this positive sorting comes about, because marriage is an equilibrium outcome arising from a process that entails searching, meeting and choosing one another, process that is usually a black box to social researchers. This study exploits unique field data from a large speed dating agency to shed light on the forces driving choices at the earliest stage of a relationship - after a first meeting. We find that both women and men value physical attributes, such as age and weight, and that choices are assortative along age, height, and education. However, we find that choices are mainly driven by meeting opportunities. Along some attributes (such as education, occupation and smoking) opportunities explain more than two-thirds of the estimated variation in demand. Along other attributes (such as age), the role of opportunities is more limited, but still dominant. These results have important implications for our understanding of the degree of social openness and mobility.






Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest