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Why It Seems Like There's No One Worth Dating

In a city of 8 million, perhaps only 111 real prospects.

Key points

  • When entering values, beliefs, or traits that you want to filter, drastically reduce the size of your dating pool.
  • The Drake Equation, which helps estimate the number of civilizations that support alien life, can help you measure your dating pool.
Athree23 / Pixabay
Source: Athree23 / Pixabay

The Drake Equation, conceptualized by Dr. Frank Drake in 1961, is used to estimate the number of civilizations capable of supporting communicative extraterrestrial life in the Milky Way Galaxy (Seti Institute, 2016). Yes, you read that right. It gives us an estimation of the number of aliens out there. The equation is an approximation; the series of over and underestimations cancel out and provide a relatively accurate number.

Dr. Peter Backus, an economics lecturer in the UK, later adapted this equation to figure out how many available women there were in his dating pool. By using available population data, and entering specifics as to what he was looking for in a mate, he came up with 26 potential mates (Backus, 2010). Regarding attraction, he estimated that he would find approximately 5 percent of the population of available partners attractive (Backus, 2010).

Out of curiosity, I also used this equation, including the parameters I typically entered during my years of online dating. Taking a more optimistic approach, I went with the likelihood that I would find 20 percent of the potential pool attractive and that 20 percent of those people would find me attractive, a percentage also used by Dr. Hannah Fry in her book, The Mathematics of Love (Fry, 2015). Starting with a population of over 8 million people in New York City, I wound up with 111 potential men, only putting in a few specifics such as age, having a bachelor's degree or higher, and single relationship status. Essentially, I didn’t include anything excessive (or excessive to me).

Why This Is Important

Understanding just how quickly our dating pool can be whittled down is important. People may be under the misconception that there are hundreds, if not thousands of potential matches out there for them on dating sites and apps. However, when entering values, beliefs, or traits that you want to filter drastically reduces the size of the field.

This is by no means a tactic to scare online daters or to suggest that you should abandon what is important to you. However, this should encourage you to really think about what you view as important to a relationship before quickly checking boxes in your search. If you filter out people using options that you are ambivalent about, you may be missing out on some really wonderful people.

Before checking boxes, take some time to self-reflect and think about what it is you value and want from a potential mate. Happy clicking.

Facebook image: KUNG MIN JU/Shutterstock


Backus, P. (2010). Why I don’t have a girlfriend: An application of the Drake Equation to love in the UK. Retrieved from girlfriend/why_i_dont_have_a_girlfriend.pdf

Fry, H. (2015). The mathematics of love. New York: Simon & Schuster.

SETI Institute. (2016). The Drake Equation. Retrieved from

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