Two people sitting on a bench in New York City at night, and another person sitting off to the side. Photo by Guian Bolisay, Flickr CC

Few would disagree that the internet — through online dating apps and websites — has significantly changed how people meet romantic and sexual partners. Sociologists have been on the forefront of studying how online dating has changed relationships, and sometimes even working for the companies behind this change. A recent article in The Economist explores some of this research.

Using online dating apps, individuals are able to choose which commonalities they want to share with a partner, while searching through a more diverse pool of applicants than they might find at their neighborhood bar. And research by sociologists, Reuben Thomas and Michael Rosenfeld, shows that this really matters — married people who met their partners online reported significantly higher relationship quality than those who met their partners offline. Jess Carbino, the in-house sociologists at Bumble, explains why this might happen:

Offline, people meet others who are like them in various ways—who know the same people and work in the same places. Online they can meet people not like them in those ways, but like them in other ways that may matter more. You can meet people who aren’t like you and select those who are.

However, not all online daters benefit equally. Research by Elizabeth Bruch and Mark Newman shows that women are generally more desirable than men, but women’s desirability drops with age and the more degrees they have, while men’s desirability generally increases with age and education level. And certain groups — especially Asian men and Black women — get fewer responses than others.

In short, while the internet has increased the diversity of the dating pool for many — and with it, relationship quality — it still reinforces many of the same sexist and racist patterns we see in other forms of dating.