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A tamer version of that observation is borne out in the economists' work among high schoolers.

In high-school terms, that means math nerds date math nerds, though members of the debate team may also qualify.) he or she seeks in a partner as well as what he or she ends up getting.

The idea is that men and women—jocks and dorks, freshman and seniors—base their search not only on the characteristics of their chosen partner, but also the expected terms of the relationship.

Where there are more girls, the male preference for sex tends to win out.

Of course, all this raises a question that has long bedeviled scores of Y. novelists, not to mention millions of teenagers: In high school, how exactly does one define a "relationship"?

What the researchers looked for is called, in academic-speak, "matching": the likelihood and factors that lead to any individual partnering up.

(They looked only at opposite-sex relationships within the same school.) That's uncommon: Most academic studies on marriage and partner-matching use a technique called "," which looks at pre-existing couples and defines the characteristics they do and do not have in common.

These are truisms known to anyone who has watched 10 minutes of a teen movie or spent 10 minutes in a high school cafeteria.

So are some other old prom-era chestnuts: Teen boys are primarily—obsessively?

(Humans tend to partner with mates that look and act like them.

In real terms, that means couples with the same socioeconomic, racial, and religious background are common.

Economists Peter Arcidiacono and Marjorie Mc Elroy of Duke and Andrew Beauchamp of Boston College examined an enormous trove of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, more commonly known as The poll asked a broad range of questions about health and behavior—and the data set has become the basis of dozens of famed medical, sociological, and economic studies.