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Curious: Presentations by Young Researchers III
How do you choose your marriage partner?

Three young Japanese researchers in Chicago made curious presentations about their studies at the Japan Information Center of the Consulate General of Japan at Chicago on April 13.
The researchers have formed the Japanese Researchers Crossing in Chicago to help each other and held meetings to share their studies. They also have invited people who are interested in learning new things.
Kentaro Asai, Doctoral Student – Economics at the University of Chicago spoke about “Use of Big Data by Economists”.

Asai’s field of study is econometrics. He said that he wanted to uncover what people really think when they buy or sell something while their behaviors were available by data.
His research is not limited to buyers and sellers. For instance, he wants to know real motives about how men or women chose their partners and how they make decisions to marry. “Although a certain amount of data is available, the real motives are not clear,” he said. Economists refer to the real motives as “primitive”.

Why is big data useful?

A huge quantity of data, such as Google collects, is called big data. Why is big data useful for economists?
According to Asai, economists make assumptions on behaviors, build a model case, calculate an equilibrium, and apply it to a certain data set. An assumption is defined as how people basically think and behave about a certain thing under certain conditions.
Asai questioned whether assumptions were fair and said, “I would rather eliminate assumptions. If big data were available, we can ease assumptions out.”
For example, nouvelle cuisine, which takes advantage of ingredients, has been popular in France. When fresh ingredients are not available, chefs might add cream and make thick flavored sauce. Similarly, economists add assumptions if big data is not available. “I would like to show the real nature of ingredients as much as possible.”

Econometrics researchers have been studied equilibria for a long time, and common equilibria have been discovered. Asai explained a fair equilibrium by using a case of second price auction.
In a second price auction, bidders submit a sealed bid, and a bidder who submits the highest bid is awarded the right to buy. The winner pays a price equal to the second highest amount bid. A bidder doesn’t have to worry about if the bid is too high because they pay the second price; therefore, bidders submit what they think of their true values. This is an equilibrium in second price auctions.
The method of second price auction is used in the online auctions such as eBay and Yahoo. Asai said that if big data of bidding prices were available, the best lowest price could be set, and auctioneers are able to increase their sales volume. Actually, online auctioneers have actively collected a wide range of merchandise prices and set up the best lowest prices.

How do you choose your marriage partner?

Asai said that if he could find a good equilibrium for marriage, he would be able to plan efficient match-making events.
According to a rudimentary matching theory, college graduates choose a marriage partner from the same education level, and high-school graduates do the same when a same sex group of people shares preferences about a partner type. However, the theory has two assumptions. The first is that every person has the same opportunity to meet every type of prospective partner. The second is that a person never minds when he or she is rejected.

Asai questioned the two assumptions. In general, people meet prospective partners at their work places, schools, or other places close to their daily lives, and choose a marriage partner. If so, one’s opportunity is limited and one’s choice might not reflect his or her preference, and the first assumption collapses.
Does every person always accept when they are rejected? For example, a man’s first preference is A, but if A would not accept him, he then he proposes to B who probably accepts him. If this happens in people’s minds, the second assumption collapses.

Asai said that if big data from online dating sites were available, he could review the questions. The data would reveal how a certain person looked at prospective partners’ profiles and to whom the person actually sent e-mail. If he could review it, he would be able to ease the first assumption.
The big data would also uncover a probability of rejection or acceptance by different types. If the data shows that rejection rates affect a choice of type, the second assumption is not correct.
Asai said that if he could use big data with his own, he would ease assumptions and eventually make equilibria which are close to nouvelle cuisine.


Kentaro Asai, Doctoral Student – Economics at the University of Chicago