User Demographics

The Site had 221,800 members as of February 2003, the end of the eight-month period covered by our snapshot of the Site's data. Of these, 69.4 percent (153,942 users) had fully completed their profiles. A slightly different subset, 25.9 percent of the total (57,362 users), was active during the eight-month study period — that is, they sent or received at least one message. This active subset was used for analyses of messaging behavior, but for analyses involving profile characteristics, it was trimmed to the 23.8 percent of users (52,857) who were active and had complete profiles.

Although the overall user population on the Site included more men (62.8 percent) than women (37.2 percent), the active subset analyzed in this work was 55 percent female. The Site targets heterosexual users; although it allows users to specify same-sex preferences (e.g., "male seeking male"), less than one percent of users did so, and some of these appeared to be data entry mistakes or confusion in the interface about whether, for example, one is male or is seeking a male. Because homosexual users were so few, their behavior would be inadequate to draw conclusions about gay users' behavior in online dating environments; thus, these users were excluded from the analysis.

Within the active subset of users, the median age was 34, but the male population was slightly older (median 36 years, compared to 33 years for women; see Figure A.2). Most users were Caucasian (83.7 percent); African-Americans and Hispanics each composed approximately two percent of the user population (Table A.4). Nearly 10 percent chose not to give their race.

The majority of active users were Christian (54.9 percent). Agnostics were the next largest group, with 1.8 percent of users; 0.9 percent were Jewish. Most of the remaining users chose the "Other" option (7.2 percent) or preferred not to answer (34.2 percent); small numbers were Muslim, Hindu, or Atheist (Table A.5).

Users were almost evenly split between never having been married (37.7 percent) and having been divorced (39.4

percent). Some were separated (5.6 percent), and small numbers were in a relationship, married, or widowed (Table

Many users reported having at least one child (42.0 percent; Table A.10). A question about whether the user wants children was ambiguous about whether the children would include existing children or be in addition to them, and 30 percent of respondents said they would prefer not to answer (Table A.11). Of these, about a third wanted children, a third did not want children, and a third were undecided.

High school was the highest educational level attained by 15.3 percent of users (Table A.7). A plurality, 36.8 percent, attended some college, and 23.4 percent held a college degree. Approximately 11 percent reported at least some post-college education.

Most users were non-smokers (60.4 percent); 21.6 percent reported social or regular smoking, and 7.3 were trying to quit (Table A.9). Social drinkers constituted 76.8 percent of the population, compared to 11.5 percent non-drinkers and only 1.8 percent regular drinkers (Table A.8).

A plurality of both men and women described their build as average (36.7 percent). Among women, 23.9 percent said they were petite or slender, compared to only 6.8 percent of men (t = -52.468; d.f. = 57,343; p < 0.001). Conversely, 33.6 percent of men reported that they were athletic or "body-builder," versus 9.3 percent of women (t = 73.501; d.f. = 57,343; p < 0.001). Approximately 10 percent of both sexes said they carried a few extra pounds (Table A.12).

On a three-point scale of Average, Attractive, and Very Attractive, most users (54.2 percent) said they were attractive (Table A.13). Women were nearly twice as likely as men to say they were very attractive (t = -19.274; d.f. = 57,343; p < 0.001), but men were about 1.5 times as likely as women to describe themselves as average (t = 26.529; d.f. = 57,343; p < 0.001). For the middle rating, Attractive, the sexes chose more similarly. Women were only 1.08 times as likely as men to choose this answer — less than 10 percent more — though the difference was also significant (t = -4.813; d.f. = 57,343; p < 0.001).

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