The Odds of Finding Your Soulmate

“How many people are out there that you could love?”

That’s the question posed by a video from a new PBS digital series It’s Okay To Be Smart, featured today on Brainpickings.

In fact, it’s really more of a calculation of your pool of potential romantic partners, depending on where you live, your age, and assumptions about the mating pool.*

Joe Hanson of It’s Okay To Be Smart calculates the equation as follows:

  • Population in your city 
  • % of people in the city of your desired partner gender (he assumes 50%, unless you’re interested in both genders, then 100%. Well played, non-heteronormative science guy!)
  • % single (“you don’t want to break up any couples”)
  • % using online dating as a proxy for number of people you might encounter (about 37% use online dating, according to his figures)
  • % in appropriate age range (“Age/2 +7″ and “creepy old guy rule”)
  • % English speakers (assuming the seeker is English speaking)
  • Likelihood that you’ll find a given person attractive (based on a rough estimate/poll with his friends – he estimates it at 13%)
  • Likelihood that a given person will find you attractive
  • % with a college degree (his fictive love seeker has a love of science)

All told, he estimates that a hypothetical 25-year-old woman in New York has a pool of about 471 potential matches, just based on those fairly broad demographic characteristics.

I decided to calculate this equation for myself, living in Toronto, knowing that it’ll be lower. Based on 2011 Census data for Toronto, coupled with Joe Hanson’s assumptions, here’s how it breaks down:

  • Population in your city: 2,615,060, but I cut right to the chase, getting the number of males 25-39 (there’s no way I’d date someone half my age + 7): 288,300
  • % of men 15+ not married or a common law: 46%
  • % using online dating: 37% (I’m using his assumption, for simplicity)
  • % English speakers: 93.6% (actually lower in TO than NY, apparently)
  • Likelihood that you’ll find a given person attractive: 13%
  • Likelihood that a given person will find you attractive: 13%
  • % with college or university degree (among adults 25-64 in Ontario): 56%

And that all adds up to… 435 potential matches!

From that, I suppose we can discount a handle of serious relationships, guys with whom I’ve gone on dates but didn’t connect, etc. – so in reality the pool of men I could realistically date, out of all of Toronto, would be even lower.

What the equation leaves out, but which *is* considered in the video, is the elusive, so-called “X Factor” – things like sense of humour, shared political beliefs, preference for Star Wars vs. Star Trek, and so on. This is almost akin to the litmus test in High Fidelity: “it’s not what you’re like, it’s what you like.” Yet, it’s all well and good to share a love of Marc Johns, displayed through tattoos and iPhone cases, but even that doesn’t mean you’re perfect for one another.

So where does that leave us? In terms of Missed Connections, and dating in general, the outlook is bleak. If there are so few people that meet even one’s basic demographic parameters for dating, what are the odds you’ll actually run into one of them? That you’ll talk and connect with them?

But looking at it another way, when you do find that person…well, that’s an undefinable equation, isn’t it? And admittedly, it’s not an equation you’re likely to solve by staying home crunching the numbers.

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2 Responses to The Odds of Finding Your Soulmate

  1. Casandra says:

    Neat! Keep in mind, people don’t usually stay in relationships forever – the pool is always changing!

    • Haha yup, too true (and well-timed!). It’s far from a perfect equation, and as some friends commented on Facebook, you’re more likely to run into the kinds of people you’d want to meet, based on activities, social circles, neighbourhoods (in social network theory, it’s known as homophily). So the “odds” aren’t as low as the raw number might suggest.

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