First it was happiness, now it is dating. The economics of different aspects of human behaviour have become a fruitful area of research, and now we have some work by Michele Belot and Marco Francesconi of the University of Essex on the advantages and results of speed-dating.
They looked at data from one of the biggest UK private agencies - some 1,800 women and 1,800 men taking part in 84 speed-dating events between January 2004 and October 2005. The results were much as you might expect: women liked men who were young and tall, while men liked women who were young and thin. But the characteristics that both genders found attractive weren't random but were related to education and occupation.
In other words, age, height and occupation correlate with social class, while eye colour or hair colour don't. So gentlemen do not prefer blondes, but they do care about social background.
The advantage of speed-dating is that the sorting out takes place on a huge scale. …