Online Dating Preferences Vary by Sex, Study Shows

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Researchers mining data from a major online dating service in China have found interesting trends about who is dating whom.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

Looking for love this Valentine’s Day? Collaborative research between UMass Lowell, UMass Amherst and, an online dating service in Beijing, China, reveals trends in user behavior that could help you find your next date, or perhaps even your soul mate.

Online dating services, such as and, have grown in popularity over the years, generating more than $1 billion a year in revenues. With over 60 million registered users, Beijing-based dating site is one of China’s leading online matchmakers and the subject of investigation by research teams at UMass Lowell and UMass Amherst.

UMass Lowell computer science Ph.D. student Peng Xia and Assoc. Profs. Benyuan Liu and Cindy Chen, along with their collaborators, analyzed the profiles and behavior of 200,000 individuals from, revealing some surprising, and not-so-surprising, trends in the behavior of single men and women when it comes to finding their perfect mate.

Each profile includes the person’s gender, age, geographic location, height, weight, occupation, income range, educational level, religion, astrological sign, marital status, number of children, home and car ownership, hobbies, smoking and drinking habits and so forth. The researchers studied the volume of messages users had sent and received during an eight-week period in 2011, as well as whether they responded to the messages and how quickly.

User Preferences Don't Always Indicate Actual Behavior

In general, both sexes exhibited “significant difference” between their stated tastes and preferences and their actual dating behavior online. Both males and females tend to be more flexible when it comes to a person’s location, age and height. However, females are observed to be much stricter about the marital status, number of children and education level of their potential date.

Read: “I still have a chance.” 

Got Mail? 

On average, men send more messages but receive fewer replies than women. And women are more likely to be contacted but are less likely to reply. 

A case of playing “hard to get?” 

Selfies vs. Security 

Males tend to be more visual, giving more emphasis on a female’s physical appearance. So the more photos a female user uploads to the site, the more likely she will get messages and replies. On the other hand, female users give more weight to the socioeconomic status of potential romantic partners. 

Women: Go ahead and post those selfies! 

Men: Looks aren’t everything.

Age Ain’t Nothin’ but a Number..Or is it? 

As a male gets older, he searches for relatively younger and younger women. A female in her twenties is more likely to look for older males, but as a female gets older, she becomes more open toward younger males. 

Cupid’s Arrow Only Reaches so Far 

Geographic distance plays a role in the number of messages exchanged between genders. In men, interest in communication decreases quickly with increasing distance, while women, especially those living in big cities, tend to send messages and reply to men in big cities, even though they may be hundreds of miles away. 

“These results can provide valuable guidelines in designing a ‘recommendation engine’ for potential dates,” notes Liu.