American Sociological Association

Searching for a Mate: The Rise of the Internet as a Social Intermediary

This article explores how the efficiency of Internet search is changing the way Americans find romantic partners. We use a new data source, the How Couples Meet and Stay Together survey. Results show that for 60 years, family and grade school have been steadily declining in their influence over the dating market. In the past 15 years, the rise of the Internet has partly displaced not only family and school, but also neighborhood, friends, and the workplace as venues for meeting partners. The Internet increasingly allows Americans to meet and form relationships with perfect strangers, that is, people with whom they had no previous social tie. Individuals who face a thin market for potential partners, such as gays, lesbians, and middle-aged heterosexuals, are especially likely to meet partners online. One result of the increasing importance of the Internet in meeting partners is that adults with Internet access at home are substantially more likely to have partners, even after controlling for other factors. Partnership rate has increased during the Internet era (consistent with Internet efficiency of search) for same-sex couples, but the heterosexual partnership rate has been flat.

Authors

Michael J. Rosenfeld and Reuben J. Thomas

Volume

77

Issue

4

Starting Page

523

Ending Page

547