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The Mathematics of Male Height Advantage in Dating
AKA back-figuring how much juice a one inch lie gets you
Since the last article on dating went well, I figured I’d do another one.
I logged onto Twitter this morning and saw this graph:
An attempt to identify the source (Statista) came up blank and several Reddit threads called this out as fake, so this graph may have simply been manufactured by an angry short dude to farm clicks. But unrealistic female expectations of height are a known thing, so just for fun let’s proceed as if this is real for the sake of discussion.
Most of the social media reaction I saw to this was either “women are full of bullshit expectations” or “dude I’m five foot eleven, how am I getting excluded by 69% of women?” or similar, but I think neither of those reactions are honest about the scenario. Online dating spaces skew 80:20 to the men, and attractive women get thousands of likes compared to perhaps dozens or less for most men, because men in that 80:20 ratio predicament are forced to resort to shotgun mass-swiping behavior. It makes sense that women would put elevated expectations on Bumble just to slow down the firehose of men they’re experiencing to a manageable level. It’s less like they’d be snobby in a bar, and more like they’re an entry level corporate HR manager with 1000 resumes for one job that decides to throw everyone out who doesn’t have a master’s degree just to keep the stack manageable. It’s an abundance/scarcity issue. Purely a flaw with the dating pool ratio.
But what I really want to dig into is the second claim, that 5’11” dudes are getting the short end of the stick here. I’m 5’11”. It’s not entirely rare for me to be the tallest dude at a party. And when I saw this graph, that showed I was being excluded by 69% of women in their Bumble searches, I counted it as a wash. Although 69% of women were excluding me, 31% of women were including me and excluding 69% of other men. At five feet eleven inches, I’m the break-even point on height, when it comes to Bumble dating height advantage.
By comparing these two sets of data – the presumed Bumble height desirability statistics and the height distribution statistics, we can back-calculate the real male height advantage in dating.
Since the source of that Bumble graph is highly questionable and unreferenced, and we’re literally pretending it’s true with our analysis, I had to back-figure raw data from it by estimating it graphically. I also did a fair amount of searching to find height distribution statistics for men and women in the United States, and discovered a bunch of websites that are absolutely wrong, such as this one and this one. These websites take a mean and a standard deviation and presume the data follows a normal distribution (bell curve) to do their mathematics. But that presumption is not a good one, especially when we literally have census data from which we can pull the real numbers.
Using the 40-49 year age band for selfish reasons, the comparison looks like this:
Let’s walk through this. If you’re a five-foot eight male, 87% of women are excluding you from their searches, but they’re also excluding 30% of other males from their searches, which is a net drawback of 57% in search visibility, not 87%. If you’re a six-foot-two male, 20% of women exclude you from their searches, but they also exclude 93% of men, so you’ve got a 72% search visibility advantage on net against the rest of the male pool. This creates a palpable incentive for men to lie on their profiles, which is also mathematically calculable and varies significantly by male height.
I’m five foot eleven, the breakeven point on the prior graph, and I’ve never lied about my height on dating apps because I abhor lying and I want to feel justified in calling out my potential dates on any lies they promulgate on their profiles, which is constant. But once these lie incentives are graphed out, the propensity to lie on profiles makes a tremendous amount of mathematical sense. At five foot eleven, I could increase my chances of landing a date by 37% by lying about one inch, or by 55% by lying about two inches. Most women can’t tell a one-inch difference, and some can’t tell a two-inch difference. I’m in the lying sweet spot, because the marginal difference in female preference at the six-foot limit is extreme.
Lying about being 5’10” when you’re only 5’9” doesn’t get you much of a bump at all, only 16%. And lying about being 5’2” when you’re 5’0”, or 6’6” when you’re already 6’5”, gets you almost nothing. The rewards for lying are clustered around the liminal six-foot boundary.
I don’t have the numbers to prove it, but I’m extremely positive that similar thing goes on with women and age. I’ve seen an astounding number of women enter “47” or “48” on their profiles, who then admit in the descriptions that they’re actually 51 years old. They admit to lying up-front before you ever meet them, just so they can get under a dating app search criteria band. I’m sure more of them probably don’t admit it. I conjecture that male dating preference between 49 and 50 is a huge gap, and the incentive for women to lie about age may be even more palpable than with men and height.
This brings up three interesting discussion points.
One, lying provably works. Two, men and women both lie because of the other’s expectations. Three, any dating app without a relatively even gender ratio, some kind of authentication heuristic, and some kind of social credit system to punish lying, will always be a sea of shit.