Looking For Love With Big Data


Could Big Data be used to help lonely hearts find their soul mate this Valentine’s Day? Well, if you’re one of those that believes the ‘dating game’ is actually just a ‘numbers game’, then the answer would be absolutely yes.

There are “plenty of fish in the sea”, or so our ‘cozied up’ friends constantly like to remind us, but the problem for many singles is knowing where to ‘cast off’.  With the help of some truly Big Data, courtesy of the analysts at real estate website Trulia, at long last those lonely hearts can finally get some scientific insights as to where they’re going wrong.

Jed Kolko, Trulia’s Head of Analytics, normally crunches more mundane figures such as home listings, prices, school stats, crime rates and so on. But Valentine’s being just around the corner, and being in a somewhat charitable mood, he decided it might be more fun to sift through the available data on gender and relationships instead.

Jed’s findings, which were posted on the Trulia blog yesterday, make particularly attractive eye candy for anyone who’s desperate to find their soul mate this Valentine’s. The data itself came from publicly available 2010 census stats, as well as Trulia’s own data sets, which were crunched around and manipulated using Stata analysis software.

According to Jed’s Big Data, women looking for love will have a much better chance of finding it if they happen to search in Las Vegas, Honolulu or Palm Bay, where single men living alone far outnumber their female counterparts – 1.3 single men for every single woman in Las Vegas, apparently.

On the other hand, lonely chaps are likely to have a lot more success if they relocate to Bethesda, MD, Washington DC, or Boston, where the opposite holds true.

Why the disparity between these cities? Well, one reason could be that the local labor market tends to dictate the demographics of any given area. For example, a city that’s known for having lots of employment opportunities in construction, technology and manufacturing – all typically male-dominated occupations – will often have a gender ratio that’s slightly skewed towards men. Cities that have more jobs in professional services on the other hand, tend to be a bit more ‘feminine’ in their demographics.

However, it might not be necessary to move to another city – even just hanging out in a new neighborhood could significantly boost one’s chances of meeting that Mr. Right or little Miss Perfect. While the job situation impacts gender ratios overall, this isn’t so true of the individual neighborhoods in each city. Different parts of the city seem to attract different sexes, with men generally showing a preference for living in downtown areas (pubs or laziness, most probably), while women usually opt for quieter residential areas.

We should point out that Trulia’s data only takes into account quantities here – no racial demographics were considered, nor were the number of gays/lesbians factored into the equation. But despite this, the numbers speak for themselves, and there’s no denying that the more times you ‘cast off’ the more likely it is that one of those fish in the sea will bite.

Those grey and pink bits on the map will look awfully tempting for some.