Internet as a Meeting Place for Spouses: Online Dating, Homogamy and Assortative Mating in Contemporary Italy
In this article places where spouses first met in Italy are studied. The focus is on online settings in the most recent marriage cohorts (2000-2016). The aim is to investigate trends over time of using the Internet as a meeting place and to explore whether Internet dating can affect assortative mating and homogamy rules. Information on first marriages is analysed to study highly committed and long-lasting relationships between partners. Data used for the analyses come from the nationally representative survey "Family, Social Subjects and Life Cycle" carried out by the Italian National Statistical Institute (Istat) in 2016 on a sample of about 32,000 individuals made available in 2020. The results allow a preliminary quantification of the phenomenon and document an increase in meetings occurring online in Italy (from 0.4 per cent in the marriage cohort 2000-2009 to 2.5 per cent in the marriage cohort 2010-2016). Furthermore, data support the idea that online contexts show homogamy paths not different from those that characterize offline dating venues. Meeting a partner online does not seem to imply heterogamy.
2. Arosio, L. (2013). The spread of the Internet and the sociology of marriage: proposals for a research agenda. In M. Mokrys, & A. Lieskovsky (Eds), Proceedings of the Virtual International Conference on Advanced Research in Scientific Fields 2012, Zilina: Edis.
3. Arosio, L. (2017). Quanti sono gli italiani che trovano il loro partner su Internet? [How many Italians find their partners on the Internet?]. Neodemos.it, http://www.neodemos.info/articoli/quanti-sono-gli-italiani-che-trovano-il-loro-partner-su-internet/
4. Arosio, L. (2022). Marriage Choices in Contemporary Italy. Couples’ Places of Meeting Between Individualization and Structural Determinants. Sociology Study, 12(3). https://doi.org/10.17265/2159-5526/2022.03.001
5. Barraket, J., & Henry-Waring, M. S. (2008). Getting it on(line): Sociological perspectives on e-dating. Journal of Sociology, 44(2), 149–165. https://doi.org/10.1177/1440783308089167
6. Bauman, Z. (2003). Liquid Love: On the Frailty of Human Bonds. Cambridge: Polity Press.
7. Baym, N. K. (2015). Personal Connections in the digital age. Cambridge: PolityPress.
8. Beck, U. & Beck-Gernsheim, E. (2002). Individualization. Institutionalized Individualism and Its Social and Political Consequences. London: Sage.
9. Beck, A., & González‐Sancho, C. (2009). Educational assortative mating and children's school readiness. Work paper 2009‐05‐FF. Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
10. Ben-Ze’ev, A. (2004). Love Online: Emotions on the Internet. Cambridge University Press.
11. Billari F. C, & Liefbroer A. C. (2010). Towards a new pattern of transition to adulthood? Advances in Life Course Research. 15(2–3):59–75.
12. Blau, P. M. (1977). Inequality and Heterogeneity. New York: Free Press.
13. Blau, P. M., & Duncan, O. D. (1967). The American Occupational Structure. New York: Wiley.
14. Blau, P. M., & Schwartz, J. E. (1984). Crosscutting Social Circles: Testing a Macrostructural Theory of Intergroup Relations. New York: Academic Press.
15. Blossfeld, H. P. (2009). Educational assortative marriage in comparative perspective. Annual Review of Sociology, 35, 513-530. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-soc-070308-115913
16. Blossfeld, H. P., & Timm, A. (Eds.) (2003). Who Marries Whom? Educational Systems as Marriage Markets in Modern Societies. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Press.
17. Bozon, M. & Heran, F. (1989). Finding a spouse: A survey of how French couples meet. Population, 44 (1), 91-121.
18. Cacioppo, J. T., Cacioppo, S., Gonzaga, G. C., Ogburn, E. L. & VanderWeele, T. J. (2013). Marital satisfaction and break-ups differ across on-line and off-line meeting venues. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(25), 10135-40. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1222447110
19. Cooke, L. & Baxter, J. (2010). "Families" in International Context: Comparing Institutional Effects Across Western Societies. Journal of Marriage and Family. 72. 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2010.00716.x.
20. Cooper, A. & Sportolari, L. (1997). Romance in Cyberspace: Understanding Online Attraction, Journal of Sex Education and Therapy 22(1): 7–14.
21. Coupland, J. (1996). Discourses of the Commodified Self. Discourse and Society, 7, 187–207. https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926596007002003
22. Dush, C. M. K., & Amato, P. R. (2005). Consequences of relationship status and quality for subjective well-being. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22(5), 607–627. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407505056438
23. Dutton, W. H (1996). Information and Communication Technologies - Visions and Realities, Oxford University Press
24. Eurostat (2019). Demography. Retrived on https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/data/database
25. Fernandez, A. & Rogerson, R. (2001). Sorting and Long Run Income Inequality. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 116, 1305-1341. https://doi.org/10.3386/w7508
26. Finkel, E. J., Eastwick, P. W., Karney, B. R., Reis H. T., & Sprecher S. (2012). Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 13(1), 3-66. https://doi.org/10.1177/1529100612436522
27. Fiore, A. (2010). Self-presentation, Interpersonal Perception, and Relationship Initiation Through Computer-Mediated Communication. Ph.D. dissertation. Retrived on https://www.ischool.berkeley.edu/research/publications/2010/self-presentation-interpersonal-perception-and-relationship-initiation
28. Fu, X., & Heaton, T. B. (2008). Racial and Educational Homogamy: 1980 to 2000. Sociological Perspectives, 1(4), 735-758. https://doi.org/10.1525/sop.2008.51.4.735
29. Fussey, P., & Roth, S. (2020.). Digitizing Sociology: Continuity and Change in the Internet Era. Sociology, 54(4), 659–674. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038520918562
30. Giddens, A. (1992). The Transformation of Intimacy. Cambridge: Polity Press.
31. Gottlieb, L. (2006). How do I love thee?. The Atlantic Monthly, 58-70.
32. Heino, R., Ellison, N. & Gibbs, J. (2010). Relationshopping: Investigating the Market Metaphor in Online Dating. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 27. 427-447. 10.1177/0265407510361614.
33. Hou, F. & Myles, J. (2007). The Changing Role of Education in the Marriage Market: Assortative Marriage in Canada and the United States since the 1970s. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 33, 338-366. https://doi.org/10.29173/cjs551
34. Houston. S., Wright R., Ellis, M., Holloway, S., & Hudson, M. (2005). Places of Possibility: Where Mixed-Race Partners Meet. Progress in Human Geography, 29(6), 700-717. https://doi.org/10.1191/0309132505pp578oa
35. Istat (2021). Noi Italia. 100 Statistics to understand the country we live in. https://noi-italia.istat.it/
36. Kalmijn, M. (1998). Intermarriage and Homogamy: Causes, Patterns, Trends. Annual Review of Sociology, 24, 395-421. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.24.1.395
37. Kalmijn, M. & Flap, H. D. (2001). Assortative Meeting and Mating: Unintended Consequences of Organized Settings for Partner Choices. Social Forces, 79, 1289-1312. https://doi.org/10.1353/sof.2001.0044
38. Kalmijn, M. (2007). Explaining Cross-National Differences in Marriage, Cohabitation, and Divorce in Europe, 1990-2000. Population Studies, 61(3), 243–263. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27643427
39. Lampard, R. (2007). Couples' Places of Meeting in Late 20th Century Britain: Class, Continuity and Change. European Sociological Review, 23, 357-371. https://doi.org/10.1093/esr/jcm004
40. Lampard, R. (2020). Meeting Online or Offline? Patterns and Trends for Co-Resident Couples in Early 21st-Century Britain. Sociological Research Online, 25(4), 589-608. https://doi.org/10.1177/1360780419895524
41. Lawson, H. M., & Leck, K. (2006). Dynamics of Internet Dating. Social Science Computer Review, 24(2), 189–208. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894439305283402
42. Lea, M. & Spears, R. (1995). Love at First Byte? Building Personal Relationships over Computer Networks. In: Wood, J.T. and Duck, S. (Eds.), Under-Studied Relationships: Off the Beaten Track, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, 197-233.
43. Lee, K.S. & Ono, H. (2012). Marriage, Cohabitation, and Happiness: A Cross-National Analysis of 27 Countries. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74: 953-972. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2012.01001.x
44. Lesthaeghe, R. (2014). The second demographic transition: A concise overview of its development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2014;111(51):18112–18115
45. Lewis, K. (2013). The limits of racial prejudice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(47), 18814–18819. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1308501110
46. Lin K. H., & Lundquist, J. (2013). Mate Selection in Cyberspace: The Intersection of Race, Gender, and Education. American Journal of Sociology, 119(1), 183-215. https://doi.org/10.1086/673129
47. MacKenzie, D. & Wajcman, J. (Eds.) (1985). The Social Shaping of Technology. Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press
48. Mare, R. D. (1991). Five decades of educational assortative mating. American Sociological Review, 56, 15-32. https://doi.org/10.2307/2095670
49. Mare, R. D. (2000). Assortative Mating, Intergenerational Mobility, and Educational Inequality. California Center for Population Research, https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Assortative-Mating%2C-Intergenerational-Mobility%2C-and-Mare/15cecefca6ffba3c4a624319ce1c684ba15a84ff
50. Merkle, E. & Richardson, R. (2000). Digital dating and virtual relating: Conceptualizing computer mediated romantic relationships. Family Relations, 49(2), 187-192. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2000.00187.x
51. Mollenhorst, G., Völker, B. & Flap, H. (2008). Social contexts and personal relationships: the effect of meeting opportunities on similarity for relationships of different strength. Social Networks, 30, 60-68. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socnet.2007.07.003
52. OECD. (2019). OECD Family Database. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. http://www.oecd.org/social/family/database.htm
53. Potarca, G. (2014). Modern Love: Comparative insights in online dating preferences and assortative mating, retrived on Modern Love: Comparative insights in online dating preferences and assortative mating — the University of Groningen research portal (rug.nl)
54. Potarca, G. (2017). Does the Internet affect assortative mating? Evidence from the U.S. and Germany. Social Science Research, 61, 278-297. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2016.06.019
55. Robnett, B., & Feliciano, C. (2011). Patterns of racial-ethnic exclusion by internet daters. Social Forces, 89, 807-828. https://doi.org/10.1353/sof.2011.0008
56. Rosenfeld, M. J., & Thomas, R. J. (2012). Searching for a Mate: The Rise of the Internet as a Social Intermediary. American Sociological Review, 77(4), 523–547. https://doi.org/10.1177/0003122412448050
57. Rosenfeld, M. J., Thomas, R. J., & Hausen, S. (2019). Disintermediating your friends: How online dating in the United States displaces other ways of meeting. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(36), 17753-17758. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1908630116
58. Rosenfeld, M., & Thomas R. J. (2012). Searching for a Mate. American Sociological Review, 77 (4), 523-547. https://doi.org/10.1177/0003122412448050
59. Sautter, J., Tippett, R., & Morgan, S. (2010). The Social Demography of Internet Dating in the United States. Social Science Quarterly, 91, 554-575. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6237.2010.00707.x
60. Skopek, J., Schulz, F., & Blossfeld, H. P. (2010). Who Contacts Whom? Educational Homophily in Online Mate Selection. European Sociological Review, 27(2), 180-195. https://doi.org/10.1093/esr/jcp068
61. Smith, A., & Duggan, M. (2013). Online Dating & Relationships. Pew Internet and American Life Project, Washington, DC. Retrieved http://www.pewinternet.org/files/oldmedia/Files/Reports/2013/PIP_Online20Dating202013.pdf
62. Smock, P. & Greenland, F. R. (2010). Diversity in Pathways to Parenthood: Patterns, Implications, and Emerging Research Directions, Journal of Marriage and Family, 576-593
63. Sobotka, T. & Toulemon, L. (2008). Changing family and partnership behaviour: Common trends and persistent diversity across Europe. Demographic Research. 19. 85-138.
64. Soons, J., Liefbroer, A. & Kalmijn, M. (2009). The Long-Term Consequences of Relationship Formation for Subjective Well-Being. Journal of Marriage and The Family, 71. 1254-1270. 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2009.00667.x.
65. Sprecher, S., Schwartz, P., Harvey, J., & Hatfield, E. (2008). Thebusinessoflove.com: Relationship Initiation at Internet MatchMaking Services. In S. Sprecher, A. Wenzel, & J. Harvey, (Eds.), The Handbook of relationship initiation. Hillsdale, N. J. Erlbaum.
66. Schwartz, C. R. (2013). Trends and Variation in Assortative Mating: Causes and Consequences. Annual Review of Sociology, 39(1), 451-470. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-soc-071312-145544
67. Schwartz, C. R., & Mare, R. D. (2005). Trends in educational assortative marriage from 1940 to 2003. Demography, 42(4), 621-46. https://doi.org/10.1353/dem.2005.0036
68. Weber, M. (1922). Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Tübingen: Mohr.
69. Whitty, M. T. (2005). The Realness of Cybercheating: Men’s and Women’s Representations of Unfaithful Internet Relationships. Social Science Computer Review, 23, 57-67. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894439304271536
70. Woll, S., & Cozby, P. (1987). Videodating and other alternatives to traditional methods of relationship initiation. In W. Jones & D. Perlman (Eds.), Advances in personal relationships 1. New York: JAI Press.
71. Woolgar, S. (1996). Technologies as cultural artefacts. In: Dutton, W H, (Ed.) Information and Communication Technologies: Visions and Realities. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
72. Yancey, G. (2007). Homogamy over the net: Using internet advertisements to discover who interracially dates. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24(6), 913-930. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407507084190
Copyright (c) 2022 Laura Arosio
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.