Has online dating increased social integration? The aim of this paper is to analyze the interdependent relationship between matching and the network in which the matching takes place. In a highly clustered network, the expected probability of a match between agents belonging to two different clusters is low. On the other hand, a high number of matches between agents belonging to different clusters will contribute to the integration of the clusters in the following period. I develop a model of meeting and matching that sheds light on the patterns of ethnic homophily observed in the marriage market. The model is a two-stage game: in the first stage, agents engage in a population game to strategically increase their set of acquaintances, with the objective of maximizing their expected indirect utility in the second stage. In the second stage, the actual matching occurs, with the restriction that agents can only match with individuals they are connected to in the network. The model is then used to investigate how changes in the meeting technology, such as the introduction of online dating, affects matching frequencies and couples’ assortativeness. In particular, the model is used to explain three empirical patterns of romantic relationships: (i) all ethnic groups are biased toward same-ethnicity partners, (ii) couples who meet online are more likely to be in an interracial relationship than those who meet offline, (iii) minorities who meet their partner online are significantly more likely to be in a relationship with a white person, but equally likely to be in a relationship with a member of another minority group other than their own. The model is estimated and some bounds are obtained for the network effect on matching probabilities. The estimates show that online dating has increased integration of certain ethnic groups, but not others, and not uniformly so across the United States. Finally, the model estimates are used to form a prediction on the evolution of the clustering of the network over time with and without online dating.
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