When assessing a future partner, do we rank education as important criteria for success of the match? Age, appearance, intelligence, social status and chemistry are fundamental. But, is education up there with them? David Ong's recent research in Applied Economics used an online dating field experiment to look closer at the issue, with fascinating results.
It is reasonable to assume that similar educational standards would be an important part of the selection process of choosing a life mate. Similar educational experiences and culture presumably should strengthen the connection and help the success of the relationship. However, the problem is that education is linked with many other attractive advantages, especially income. This novel experimental study has separated education and income to see which quality most draws a potential partner.
388 fictitious baseline profiles were constructed for 180 women and 208 men on a Chinese online dating site. The females were given six varying educational levels; the males were randomly assigned anything from Master's degree level to vocational education. Visits to profile summaries from real accounts, which outlined education and income statistics, were counted.
Statistics for men visiting women weren't affected by the educational level of the woman. On the other hand, visits to men, from women of all educational levels, increased when the male profile had a higher education level, and grew even more so when paired with greater income. More highly educated women visiting men were more commonly clicking on male profiles with higher incomes. This suggests that education was merely a by-product of the main motivating factor: income.
Ong concludes, "our evidence from randomly assigned levels of education and income, suggests that relationship public goods that stem from a common level of education are not at the forefront of either men's or women's minds in China. Furthermore, women's preferences for higher mate income may be an unacknowledged contributing factor in the educational homogamy found in prior studies."
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