In light of the most romantic holiday of the year, it’s time to flop it on the table and talk about the economic implications of the D.

To clarify for those with their minds in the gutter, the D is the economic variable term used to describe an individual’s desirability. In a market for romantic partners, the D term is the sum of the weighted characteristics, based on each other market participants’ preferences.

Long story short: if you want the partners you attract to be more desirable, you need a bigger (higher) average D.

Market Saturation

Forgive the crudeness, but traditionally, women have desired wealth and status in men. Having the resources to invest into the woman and their children is a key desirable characteristic in guys. Men, on the other hand, have desired attractiveness and youth (which translates to fertility).


However, for college-educated women, the market is not looking all that attractive. Women outnumber men on most college campuses, lowering the search costs (C) for men. On top of that, college-educated women put more emphasis on intelligence and a college degree, expanding the required factors of desirability in men, making them much more elastic, or pickier, in the dating market.

To briefly illustrate, in an optimal search model, you have to find the potential partner, observe their D, decide if you want them, and find out if they want you, right? If you’re not rejected, you can:

  1. Make the offer to the partner, thus ending your search. Or,
  2. Move on to a new potential partner at a cost of C.

For men, C is much lower in areas that have an oversupply of college-educated women. Additionally, the large D women expect may bring in better partners, but it will most likely leave them single for a longer period of time, exacerbating the oversupply. The change in D helped create an oversupply.

Skewed Gender Ratios

Approximately $13.3 billion will be spent on Valentine’s Day buying cards, roses, candy and nice dinners across the country. An average of $2.2 billion is spent on jewelry alone! Interestingly, in areas where there are more men than women, particularly who are college-educated, have higher incomes and possess a higher D, women will be treated like royalty and have their pick of the litter. These areas include some counties on the West Coast, around the Silicon Valley area, the Dakotas and Oklahoma.

Jon Birger discusses the effect gender ratios have on the dating market in his book “Date-onomics.” He suggests that today’s hookup culture is a result of these skewed ratios, especially on college campuses. In the bestselling, “Modern Romance,” Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg explore the effects of technology on the dating market, exacerbating the already skewed numbers game by decreasing the search costs for men even more!15431587


Unfortunately, the lowered search costs C, are compensating men despite the size of their D. This is unfortunate because it aided the change in perspective on monogamy and the role of marriage as a means to financial security. Though being independent and not having to commit to someone with all their extra un-D baggage is awesome, the tradeoff has some negative effects on getting financially ahead in life.

With men and women staying single for longer, economic mobility is becoming harder for those down the socioeconomic ladder. The change in D for both men and women may have severe economic implications down the line, especially if we don’t act on it now.

My distinctly half-hearted remedy: If you’re a single college-educated woman, have fun this Gal-entine’s Day, but move to North Dakota (though Silicon Valley sounds pretty fun) as quickly as possible. If you’re a man, stop treating dates as data to be mined and swiping for easy love. For everyone else, Happy Valentine’s Day.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.