The Dating Market Part 2: Love Unbound and the Transition from Protectionism to Globalised Romance in Today's Dating Economy

Remiel, Maverick

            Just like economic markets, the advent of technology and globalisation has opened up small closed markets and consolidated them into one big market. Globalisation has caused isolated national economies to open up, essentially creating one big global market of goods and services rather than multiple smaller isolated local markets. The effect of technology and  globalisation can be most saliently observed in the presence of dating apps. Dating apps allow eligible bachelors/bachelorettes to meet each other despite not being within the same social circle or even physical proximity. In essence, the barrier of entry has been lowered as prospective partners no longer need to ‘break into the market’ by expanding their social circles or cold approach potential partners in public. Thus, lowered barriers of entry means that the market has greater competition and thus moves more and more towards being a true free market. The next article of the series will discuss this further, focusing on how applicable is Adam Smith’s idea of the invisible hand with regards to the dating market


            Globalisation and dating apps have undoubtedly revolutionised the dating market. However, some argue that the availability of dating apps does nothing more than allow people to meet more prospective partners and thus are simply increasing the contact points between buyers and sellers. Though this premise is correct, it fails to consider an important consequence of opening up closed markets: competition. In economic markets, the consolidation of smaller markets into one global market has resulted in an unprecedented number of suppliers competing against each other. Thus, the most efficient global producers would win and price out their less efficient competitors which results in an overall increase in global social surplus. Competition pushes for suppliers to innovate and improve upon their products so as to achieve greater efficiency and product differentiation. On the whole, we can argue that not only are resources used more efficiently, consumers benefit from getting better products and suppliers benefit from having access to wider markets. Within the dating market, this would translate to prospective dating partners being encouraged to improve the value of qualities which they offer so as to be able to extract greater utility (i.e., get higher quality dating partners) from an ever-increasing competitive market. 






            Despite the astounding similarity between economic and dating markets, I would argue that the same extent of market aperture doesn’t happen to the dating market. Despite our rational agent assumption, it is reasonable to see that a significant number of eligible bachelor/bachelorettes may not be willing to move countries for a dating partner despite that decision being the one which would yield the highest utility. In fact, we can qualify proximity as one metric of dating ‘standards’ which have to be fulfilled in an eligible bachelor/bachelorettes’ utility function. Although imperfect, we can argue that this is properly represented in the monopolistic competition market structure which does have product differentiation and thus, some level of barriers to entry (proximity is not a homogenous quality offered by all suppliers to all buyers in a dating market). However, to say that dating apps have not opened up the dating markets at all would simply be false. Hence, the answer lies somewhere in between: dating apps have increased the competition between market agents but not to the extent of creating a free competition market. 


Protectionism: Why “Bridgerton” reminds me of import ban policies


It is impossible to discuss a shift in market structure without also raising the point of intervention. In the current globalised economy, the primary reason as to why most countries’ participation in the global market to not be considered to be truly free competitive in nature is government interventions. Specifically, protectionist policies limit either the intake or output of goods and services from other countries. The goal behind protectionist policies is typically for the government to control which supplier gets to fulfil the demand (i.e., domestic suppliers). A similar idea, however fringe, too exists in the dating market. Those of you who have watched the tv series “Bridgerton” would know of the very particular nature of the british royal family’s dating experience. The royal family participates in a dating event of sorts called the “social season”.  These events’ participants are strictly only for the children of marriageable age from the British nobility and gentry. Culturally, this aligns with the consensus that intermarriage between commoners and those of royal blood is a very scarce occurrence. The social season’s parallels to a gated economy with very strict protectionist policies are extensive. Exclusivity being a very deliberate characteristic of both markets is particularly salient. In particular, the authority in both the economic and dating market (i.e., the government and the social elite of the social season respectively) wants to ensure that demands are fulfilled only by a selectively chosen group of suppliers. Although the core motivations between both policies are not exactly aligned (maintaining domestic suppliers’ economic health is fundamentally not the same as maintaining a purely royal bloodline), the mechanisms of their protectionist policies are very much similar.


            Since the mechanisms between the protectionist policies of the two markets are similar, it is natural that their impacts too have parallels. Other than the aforementioned pre-selection of participating suppliers, an unfortunate side effect is the loss of free competition’s benefits. In protected domestic economies, it is not possible for the most suitable suppliers from another country (i.e., those who can supply the demanded goods for the best price) to participate which leads to overall welfare loss. Likewise, the exclusivity of social season prevents a more suitable suitor who isn’t from nobility to potentially fulfil the needs of a bachelor/bachelorette of nobility. There is of course “welfare loss” here as both suitors miss out on having their needs fulfilled by their respective best matches. Social season trades this welfare loss for the assurance that the noble families are kept “pure”. 


In short, recent years’ shifts in the nature of the dating market can be analysed through the lens of market competition. The greater degree of free competition in the modern dating market has resulted in some change in how bachelors/bachelorettes approach the dating market. Furthermore, the case study of the British royalty’s “social season” provides an interesting contrast for exploring the trade-off between competitive and protected markets. With the groundwork laid on how the current dating market is becoming more and more laissez faire, the next article in this series will directly attempt to answer the question: Does Adam Smith’s invisible hand theory apply in the dating market?

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