Revisiting Amazon’s Impact on Seattle Dating

Amazon’s growth has forever impacted Seattle and created a lengthy list of serious problems which the company takes no responsibility e.g. homelessness, housing affordability, transportation, wealth inequality, crime, et al. One less important sub-area of its impacts on Seattle and its culture is dating.

Imagine a city with the normal challenges of dating that both genders experience and add 45,000 men over a period of roughly five years and add in the growth in the technology sector around Amazon and the large numbers of men arriving for that. That’s Seattle dating, a topic that I’ve enjoyed covering as a blogger … and a personal experience that contributed to my decision to try living in another city.

You’ve Got Male and Peepless in Seattle remain some of the most popular articles I’ve written about Seattle, often googled in the middle of the night on weekends by lonely souls. And, don’t miss Tricia Romano telling women’s story in Amazon Killed My Sex Life. But, it hasn’t been easy to keep up with the quantitative changes as Amazon’s growth has continued.

Two articles that shed some light are Seattle Times’ statistician Gene Balk’s, 50 software developers a week: Here’s who’s moving to Seattle and the census report revealing that in the 18 to 54 year old range, there are 76,755 more men than women in Washington State. But, we won’t really know more about gender imbalance in Seattle until the 2020 census results are available.

Amazon’s refusal to release statewide race, gender and salary statistics also clouds the picture. But, there’s a new study based on research from dating sites which sheds revealing light on the situation.

Research Quantifies Gender Imbalance in Seattle Dating

Aspirational pursuit of mates in online dating markets studies heterosexual dating in four major cities: Seattle, New York, Boston and Chicago. It highlights Seattle as having clearly distinct characteristics from these other major cities.

Of the cities studied, Seattle presents the most unfavorable dating climate for men, with as many as two men for every woman in some segments of the user population.

age distribution by gender seattle

Age Distribution of Men and Women on Dating Sites in Seattle

This conclusion backs up the state census data and a hundred thousand city residents’ qualitative experience. Smirk.

Furthermore, “both men and women tend to write substantially longer messages to more desirable partners, up to twice as long in some cases. The effect is larger for messages sent by women than by men, although there are exceptions.”

And apparently Seattle daters are the most prolific writers either from our higher educational level or our outright desperation.

The study reports, “among the groups we study, for instance, it is men in Seattle who have the most pronounced increase in message length.”

But does message size matter? Sort of say researchers: “only Seattle men experience a payoff to writing longer messages—and Seattle is the only city where men write longer messages to more desirable mates.”

Ultimately, the “payoff for different strategies is fairly small, suggesting that, all else being equal, effort put into writing longer or more positive messages may be wasted.”

Response Rates for Positive Messages in Online Dating

The research tries to look into messaging across quantified desirability measures i.e. our popularity as assessed by an online crowd raised in our racist misogynistic appearance-based culture. (I rewatched the Italian Job the other night only newly horrified that Seth Green’s character aspired to afford speakers that would blow a woman’s clothes off without consent…and proceeds to obtain them.)

One of the study’s most interesting results seemed to show that positive messages, presumably compliments, lower outcomes for men.

Positive messages are somewhat negatively associated with response rates for men; women have mixed success with more positive messages, depending on the city…in all four cities, men experience slightly lower reply rates when they write more positively worded messages.

amazon seattle dating

Probability of reply and positive messages in online dating

In other words, compliments may signal to more desirable partners that we don’t quite rate with them with the crowd and that they’ve learned to recognize this and move on.

I find these studies fascinating and hope to see more of them. But, does more information assist us in our search for whatever it is that we’re all swiping for? Perhaps.

At least one female reporter at WaPo, a city with notoriously more women than men, jests, “As for me, I am moving to Seattle.” Don’t be surprised if I move to D.C.


I forgot to add this tidbit from the full research paper (pdf):

…among the cities studied men send the smallest number of messages and experience the largest reply rate in Seattle, which is unexpected since this is the poorest dating environment for men in terms of ratio of men to women. One might imagine that in cities where the sex ratio puts men at a disadvantage they would send more messages, in the hope of getting a reasonable number of replies. Moreover, the low number of messages sent by men in Seattle cannot be explained as a result of a larger fraction of inactive users, which might occur if male users become discouraged by the poor dating environment. As described above, only active users are included in the data, although it is possible that Seattle might contain a larger-than-usual number of users of low (but nonzero) activity level.

I wonder if this has something to do partly with despondency and partly the relative low maturity of social skills commonly described by women in the male Amazon dating population.


Posted by Jeff Reifman

Jeff is a technology consultant based in the Pacific Northwest.

One Comment

  1. What is extremely surprising is that I read 25+ years ago (in my mom’s RedBook magazine, I think) that between the ages of 20 and 35, women outnumber men greatly in big cities. Men were predominant in rural areas of the USA, where manual labor jobs were plentiful, and young women in their 20’s move to cities for clerical jobs and entertainment prospects. It seemed definitely true when I moved from Central Illinois (Champaign Urbana, the #3 place in america for women with a 130:100 male:female ratio) to Vancouver at age 31 which was subjectively loaded with women aged 20-35.


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