Discussion paper

DP18422 The Causal Effects of Online Dating Apps: Evidence From U.S. Colleges

Online dating apps have become a central part of the dating market over the past decade, yet their broader effects remain unclear. We analyze the impact of a popular dating app - Tinder - on dating behavior, relationships, and health. For identification, we rely on the fact that Tinder's initial marketing strategy centered on Greek organizations (fraternities and sororities) within college campuses. Using a comprehensive survey containing more than 1.1 million responses, we estimate a difference-in-differences model comparing student outcomes before and after Tinder's full-scale launch and across students' membership in Greek organizations. We show that the introduction of Tinder led to a sharp, persistent increase in the frequency of sexual activity, with no corresponding impact on the likelihood of relationship formation. Inequality in dating outcomes increased among male students but not among female students. Finally, in terms of overall well-being, dating apps have downstream benefits through relative improvements to students' mental health, but also costs due to increased incidences of sexual assaults and sexually transmitted diseases. Overall, our results suggest that digital technologies have far-reaching influence on social behavior and relationships.


Buyukeren, B, A Makarin and H Xiong (2023), ‘DP18422 The Causal Effects of Online Dating Apps: Evidence From U.S. Colleges‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 18422. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp18422