Empirical Analysis of Online Dating:
This paper seems destined for SSRN success: What Makes You Click? Mate Preferences and Matching Outcomes in Online Dating. From the abstract:
This paper uses a novel data set obtained from an online dating service to draw inferences on mate preferences and to investigate the role played by these preferences in determining match outcomes and sorting patterns. The empirical analysis is based on a detailed record of the site users' attributes and their partner search, which allows us to estimate a rich preference specification that takes into account a large number of partner characteristics.
Hat tip: ProfessorBainbridge.
Abdul (mail):
Let me guess, men seek physically attractive partners while women want someone who's financially well off?
9.20.2006 10:02am

A qualification on the males: Older men generally prefer younger, attractive women, who are closer to their reproductive prime. Adolescent males generally prefer older, attractive females, who are also closer to their reproductive prime.

So attraction matters, but characteristics related to fertility (viz., females' age vis-à-vis males' age) matter too.

Evolution probably played a role here: Males who mated with fertile females would have been more likely to reproduce and become grandparents than males who mated with non-fertile females.

For support, see, e.g., David Buss et al (UT Austin) and by Kenrick et al (ASU).
9.20.2006 12:26pm
I know this is pretty long but I found itinteresting.

First, we look at the trade-off between looks and income. Consider a woman evaluating
the profile of a man whose looks rating is in the nth decile (n < 10) of all looks scores among men.
We would like to know the amount of additional income this man would need to be
as “successful” with the woman as another man whose looks rating is in the top decile. To that end, we calculate the income variation such that the woman’s utility index for either man is equal. Remember that the utility index allows for preference heterogeneity through attribute distance terms, and hence we also need to specify the income of the woman and the “baseline man” in the top looks decile. We assume (here and below) that the woman has an annual income of $42,500 and that the man has an annual income of $62,500. These are the median income levels for men and women among the dating site users in our data. Table 5.4 shows the income tradeoffs for all looks deciles. A man in the bottom decile, for example, needs an additional income of $186,000 (a total annual income of $248,500) to compensate for his poor looks. The table also shows that women cannot make up for their looks at all.

So it looks like I need to start making more money.
9.20.2006 1:00pm
I agree that the income and appearance findings are interesting. Maybe guys whose appearance puts them below the top 5% of guys (the paper notes that these top 5% guys got the lion's share of female attention) should consider spending some money on cosmetic surgery. It's not such a farfetched idea. It may be the best way to boost one's appeal. Women have been doing it for decades, because it works. I've read that lots more guys are having cosmetic surgery these days. Maybe these guys are doing this because they realize it will boost their chances to find a woman they find attractive. Many guys will spend $40-50,000 on a car, mostly to attract women. Even a great deal of cosmetic surgery would cost only half that amount, and the results wouldn't depreciate as fast as the car would.
9.20.2006 7:27pm