Do People Look for Earning Potential on Tinder?

Or is it all about looks?

Mike Blake / Reuters

Three months ago, the dating app Tinder announced that it would add a feature many of their users had been requesting: the option to include job and education information on their profiles. At the time, I wrote that this was perhaps a sign that the dating app was going the way of traditional dating—when it isn’t just a snap judgement based on a photo, people might start matching more often with those of similar education and economic backgrounds (a phenomenon that researchers call “assortative mating”).

Tinder said that adding these two pieces of information would mean its users could make “more informed choices” when deciding whether to swipe right and “like” another user’s profile. Since then, millions of users have added their jobs to their profiles and recently, Tinder released a list of the most right-swiped jobs in the U.S., broken down by gender, between November 2015 and January 2016.

Pilots were the most popular job among people viewing men’s profiles; physical therapists were the most popular among those viewing women’s. But the list gets more interesting when paired with data about the earnings of each of the most popular professions. Matching Bureau of Labor Statistics data with the most right-swiped professions provides a look into whether high-earning professions on Tinder are more popular than low-earning ones, and whether there’s a gender difference in these preferences. In other words: Are men whose jobs suggest they make more money more sought-after? What about women with lucrative-sounding jobs?

Here, arranged from top to bottom, are the most popular professions for male users to have on Tinder, matched with their average annual earnings according to BLS:

I had to cheat a little bit on one profession: There isn’t an official estimate for self-employed entrepreneurs, so I used the figure for an executive who runs a company. (This may not be the most accurate approximation of what self-styled “entrepreneurs” actually make, but it may be close to what people imagine they make when they see the word.) I also omitted the earnings estimate for an active military-service member because it is a bit complicated, since non-cash compensation can make up 60 percent of their pay packages. And college student, another “job” on Tinder’s list, was left out as well.

And here, arranged from top to bottom, are the most popular professions for female users to have on Tinder, matched with their average annual earnings according to BLS:

On the whole, the average of income of the most popular professionals on Tinder are $73,200 for men and $61,395 for women—a fair amount above the median income in the U.S. So it might seem like both men and women prefer high-earning partners. But taking a closer look at the professions on the lower end of this earnings spectrum, there seems to be a certain pattern at play.

On men’s profiles, the most popular but lowest-earning jobs are firefighters, models, paramedics, personal trainers, TV or radio personalities, and police officers. Five of the six are professions that imply certain physical attributes—ones that are seen by the culture as “sexy.” The other pattern in these professions is that some of them are regarded as as honorable or heroic.

On women’s profiles, the most popular but lowest-earning jobs include models, personal trainers, and flight attendants. These are also professions that, in the public mind, tend to carry some sex appeal. Other popular occupations on the women’s list—such as teacher, nurse, or interior designer—can be described as stereotypically feminine, though it’s hard to say exactly what that means without seeing the whole list of jobs sorted by popularity on Tinder. (I struggle to explain the prominence of speech-language-pathologists on the list.)

Taken together, it would seem that Tinder users are willing to forgo some earnings for sexiness—and that’s true for those seeking both men and women. This might be indicative of what economists call revealed preferences—what people actually want as opposed to what people say they want. In surveys regarding what people look for in mates, women tend to prioritize earning potential and ambition while men prioritize attractiveness. But it’s important to keep in mind that many people use Tinder to look for a fling or a hookup (as opposed to a relationship), and that means that behavior on Tinder isn’t exactly reflective of how the marriage market works. But it’s still at least somewhat representative of what people look for in mates, considering that Tinder has enabled 10 billion matches and thousands (or even more) engagements.