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The age of first marriage is now in the late twenties, and more people in their 30s and even 40s are deciding not to settle down.

The rise of phone apps and online dating websites gives people access to more potential partners than they could meet at work or in the neighborhood.

This environment, mind you, is just like the one we see in the offline world.

There’s no obvious pattern by which people who meet online are worse off. For people who have a hard time finding partners in their day-to-day, face-to-face life, the larger subset of potential partners online is a big advantage for them.

We see this in consumer goods — if there are too many flavors of jam at the store, for instance, you might feel that it’s just too complicated to consider the jam aisle, you might end up skipping it all together, you might decide it's not worth settling down with one jam. I don’t think that that theory, even if it’s true for something like jam, applies to dating.

I actually don’t see in my data any negative repercussions for people who meet partners online.

And that’s not the life that young people lead anymore.For folks who are meeting people everyday—really younger people in their early twenties—online dating is relevant, but it really becomes a powerful force for people in thin dating markets.In a 2012 paper, I wrote about how among heterosexuals, the people who are most likely to use online dating are the middle-aged folks, because they’re the ones in the thinnest dating market.(For gay couples, it's more like two out of every three).The apps have been surprisingly successful -- and in ways many people would not expect.

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