Disclaimer: I realize that taking a few business classes in high school and college does not make me an economist or in any way qualified to comment on some of the actual data surrounding America’s wealth inquality. However as someone who has studied human communication and sociology more extensively, I can’t resist sharing my own thoughts and experiences on a recent article by Jeanne Smialek in Bloomberg Business week: Elite Dating Apps Threaten to Make America’s Wealth Gap Worse.
Wealth inequality is a complex issue, with no one reason contributing to it. I do not, however, think that dating apps are in any way threatening to make this issue worse. Nor do I think taking it a step further and asserting that “elite” dating apps (where users must meet certain qualifications, face an approval process, and/or be of a certain demographic) is going to make wealth inequality any worse for millennials than for our parents.
That said, I’m going to make one argument here, though I know there are several. I’d like to invite you to add your own opinions in the comments, whether you agree or disagree.
Before we had Bumble, we had the bar. Or school. Or work. Or our neighborhood. Right? Now, who else is on the prowl in these areas where you spend your time? Typically, you’d be surrounded by similar(ish) people in a similar demographic. Why? Well, we’re human. It’s naturally ingrained in us to gravitate towards people who aren’t completely alien to us. Pun completely intended.
Smialek quotes Tyler Cowen on this change:
Dating apps “help you find exactly what you want,” says Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University who has broached the topic on several occasions on Marginal Revolution, a popular blog he co-hosts. Now, “you marry a college professor across town, a lawyer in D.C., rather than someone you work with or someone your brother-in-law matched you up with.” (Cowen is also a columnist for Bloomberg.)
While this all may be true, what this quote (and the rest of the article) neglect to consider is the demographic of “someone you work with or someone your brother-in-law matched you up with,” because chances are, they’re pretty close to your level of education or pay grade.
My point is, when you’re swiping through whatever you’re preferred dating app is, the decisions you’re making about who you’re digitally attracted to aren’t that much different than the decisions you’d be making while sitting at your favorite cafe. Yeah, it’s totally superficial, but not any more superficial than when you walk up to a stranger at a bar and it would be completely naive to think otherwise.
If you ask me, the most terrible thing that dating apps contribute to is our own general laziness. There are far more important things (cough, education) that contribute to the wealth gap.