Justin Li

OKCupid is Wrong


I started reading OKCupid's blog about a month ago, when their post hit the front page of Reddit. I don't use the site, but their combination of romance and statistics was intriguing. A new post just came out, and I was procrastinating hard enough to think a little about it. In their post, they argued that men between 22 and 30 should be looking at women 30 and older. They first provided data about what their users say they want, then provided reasons why women of that age are better matches.

There is, however, a flaw in their argument. Their basic error is this: women 30 and older don't want to date men between 22 and 30.

I took a closer look at their graphs, and extracted out the numbers. This is the graph I got:

My recreation of the match preferences plot

If this looks slightly different from the graphs on OKCupid's post, that's because it is. Here, I flipped the female match preferences graph along the y=x axis. Therefore, if you're female, you start on the y-axis, and read across to get the average match preference.

Now, on to why OKCupid is wrong. If you look at their "zone of greatness", they marked out this area:

The same plot with the "zone of greatness" marked

You see the problem: the average person in this area don't want to date others in this area. The blog post was written for men, so their bound might be ignored. The bound for women, however, shouldn't be. And this graph shows that, even if men were willing to date women in that age range, chances are the women won't reciprocate.

In other words, even with the other reasons that women above 30 are great fun, it turns out that they are simply not interested in men between 22 and 30.

What, then, should men (and women) be looking for? Look at the graph below:

Data driven "zone of greatness"

Overlooking my horrible circling skills, these are the areas where there is a mismatch between men's preferences and women's preferences. Whereever women's preferences are taller than the men's (or men's preferences wider than the women's), there is an opportunity. Because men accept women of such a wide age ranger, any women who is willing to date someone slightly outside the average range (shown in pink) has an advantage. Comparatively, there are much fewer places where women are interested and men are not (shown in green).

Based on this graph, you can see what age you will have the least competition, but still are still relatively desirable.

One last thing: xkcd should be updated to reflect this data.

Disclaimer: Obviously, I am not affiliated with OKCupid. If any OKCupid staff reads this, and finds my graphs objectionable, please let me know.