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Matchmakers We Ain’t

Not long ago, a reader from Portland, Oregon, wrote to us:

Hello, Mr. Levitt and Mr. Dubner… I wanted to say thank you for writing your book. It has really changed the way I think about my life and the world. You’ve also saved me money. As an African-American using and Yahoo personals, I always wondered why it was so hard to me someone on-line. Especially after hearing about all the success stories out there.

Alas, your information about on-line dating was a real eye opener. Actually it proved what I already knew in my head but was hoping for a different outcome. Giving the human race the benefit of doubt.

I canceled my membership right away. Thanks again for the great book, I very much enjoyed my time reading it and I look forward to your next book. Have a great day!

I wrote back, interested to know a bit more about his online-dating experience, and why it was so bad. I was particularly interested in the specifics of his user profile. Here’s his reply, reprinted with his permission.

I no longer have a profile on either my Yahoo Personals or account. But to the best of my recollection, here’s what I did have posted. Keep in mind, this was before I read your book. In the section about who would be my perfect match, the only thing I highlighted was no kids. All other questions were labeled as Any.

Shortly after reading your book, and taking some of the information about what you said gets people noticed, I changed some of the items I had posted. Such as… income, which is about 100 – 150k a year and I had a single current picture posted. But still to no avail. OK, I had some people contact me, but most of them had 2 or more kids, no education and lived in different cities and states. It’s hard to explain, but if you saw their profiles, you would see we had nothing in common, education, income etc. I really think they just wanted to come to Portland for a fun time and to get away from it all.

I even had women contact me from N.Y., Germany and the Philippines, but very little activity locally. I did this for about 60 days before I read your book and about another 60 days after reading your book before closing my accounts.

My profile before I read your book:

(Picture of me)

40-year-old man
Portland, Oregon, United States
seeking women 25-40
within 10 miles of Portland, Oregon, United States

Relationships: Never married

Have kids: None

Want kids: Someday

Ethnicity: African American

Body type: Athletic

Height: 6′-0″

Religion: Spiritual not religious

smoke: I’ll tell you later

Drink: Social, one or two

Hair: black

Eyes: Brown

Body art: No

Likes: Cycling, painting, gardening, yoga etc…

Diet: Keep it healthy

Exercise: Daily

Education: College Grad

Occupation: Advertising, sales Marketing

Income: I’ll tell you later

Language: English

Politics: Liberal, Sign: Aquarius

My place: live alone

Pets: No pets.

He didn’t send me a copy of his picture, but I assume since he posted it he’s at least average-looking. So if his failure was the result of something other than being African-American — a trait that white online daters say is not an obstacle, but which the data argue is just that — I sure can’t figure out what it might be.