AUSTIN (KXAN) — Archita Tekriwal and Dhruv Verma sip their drinks across from one another at Jo’s Coffee. Despite the rush of tourists and locals alike on South Congress Avenue, they are calm and content as they enjoy the moment together. They have come so far since meeting on Bumble a year and a half ago.
Their story of finding love taps into a number of the reasons Austin’s dynamic dating scene has been touted as one of the country’s best.
Austin ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for dating in a list published by Sperling’s Best Places, a data analysis website with over 2 million monthly visits. The ranking included 80 metro areas in America including Seattle, New York City, New Orleans and Los Angeles.
Amongst the pieces of criteria that landed Austin at number one were its young population, its online dating scene and its amount of dating venues. Austin received a perfect score. It beat the runner-up, Colorado Springs, by almost 12 points, while Colorado Springs only beat the third-place city, San Diego, California, by 3.7 points.
Austin outranked the second highest-scored Texas city, Fort Worth, by 20 places.
Young, single people
If an entire Netflix reality show about people in their 20s in Austin isn’t enough to prove it’s a “young person’s” city, numbers tend to back it up. Only about 9% of the Austin population is over 65 years old according to the data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This is significantly less than the national average of 16% and the Texas average of 12.5%, as reported by the 2020 American Community Survey.
The Sperling’s Best Places’ data analysis approximated 18-24-year-olds make up 13.4% of the Austin population. Of this 13.4%, the analysis estimated more than four-fifths to be single, meaning there are approximately 110,226 single 18-to-24-years-olds in the Austin dating pool. This is almost twice the entire population of San Marcos.
Austin’s large amount of young and single people directly contributed to its high ranking. Austin’s a heavily-populated college town where it’s easy for young singles to get together, the rating site said.
Out of all the cities featured on the list, Austin has the highest percentage of 18-to-24-year-olds.
Hannah Boesenberg and her boyfriend Adam Hotchkiss met and began dating in Austin when they were randomly assigned to be roommates in off-campus housing. The pair of UT students agree the number of young people in Austin, particularly on the UT campus and downtown, makes dating easier.
“A lot of people like to come to UT’s campus even if they aren’t going to UT, so, like, it’s easier to find people,” Boesenberg said. “And people like to go to Sixth Street and…stuff like that. There’s a lot of young people there. So it’s pretty easy to find people around your age group (to date).”
Hotchkiss said he sees Austin attracting more young people and thus becoming an even better city to date in.
“A lot of public figures are moving to Austin. So that also brings a lot of young people looking for opportunity,” he said. “And usually if you’re younger, you’re more ambitious, so you’re looking for more job prospectives. (Austin) brings a lot of young people looking for opportunity.”
Katy Goldey, an associate professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience at St. Edward’s University, explained young people are developmentally driven to date and thus tend to play a significant role in the dating scene of a city.
“(In) life stages and life course development, one of the big challenges that adolescents and young adults…face is called intimacy versus isolation,” Goldey said. “The big major challenge of young adulthood (is to) connect with another person.”
According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, online dating is now the most popular way for heterosexual couples to meet in the United States. Austinites have numerous ways to online date available to them.
The city is even home to the headquarters for Bumble, an international dating app with over 12 million users, as of 2020. On its website, it called Austin “one of the most fun cities in the country.”
Samantha García, Bumble’s head of North and Latin America marketing, said Austin is the perfect place for online dating because the city has a large and tech-savvy dating pool. She said online dating lets people easily sort through this pool and find compatible people.
“Through online dating (and) through tech that we have on Bumble … you can actually find people who like country (music) or find people who have the same exercise interest,” García said. “Bumble is a brand rooted in kindness, respect and equality. And in my opinion, I think the Austin community mirrors these things.”
Online dating in Austin proved effective for Celeste Alfonso and Corey Wilson, who met using Bumble on Alfonso’s first day in Austin. They have now been together for four years.
“I am from a smaller town in South Carolina, and I can definitely say I preferred the bigger city when it came to dating,” Alfonso said. “(Austin Bumble is) such a melting pot, so no matter what your hobbies are or what type of person you like, you will most likely be able to find it.”
Wilson said he’d recommend dating online while in Austin, “because one day a gorgeous brunette from South Carolina could match with you on Bumble and change your life.”
After daters find their match, either online or in-person, Austin has numerous events and romantic locations to take them out to.
The city scores relatively high in dating venues per capita “and knows how to have fun as they spent more money out socializing than any other area,” Sperling’s Best Places wrote.
This was a deciding factor in Austin outranking numerous bigger cities, the rating site said.
“Large cities that everyone associates with socializing, like Los Angeles and Miami, did not rank particularly high, (because they were) scoring lower in categories like coffee shops per capita,” said Bert Sperling, president of Sperling’s Best Places.
Austin, on the other hand, has a variety of these types of places, according to Sperling’s Best Places.
One of these is Jo’s Coffee on South Congress. Jo’s describes itself on its website as “a hub of community activity” and hosts numerous events couples or those looking for love can attend.
The cafe draws in many couples with the large, highly-photographed mural on its wall. The mural, in cursive lettering, reads “I love you so much.”
However, this mural isn’t all that Jo’s has done to mark itself as a standout Austin date spot, said Carolyn Garlock, the general manager of Jo’s South Congress.
“We do our best to make those visiting us feel welcome and at ease,” Garlock said. “Jo’s has a unique way of making you feel like you’re in an intimate setting in a very public space, which means that it can feel like a safe place to get to know someone or strike up a conversation with a stranger.”
Tekriwal and Verma said they enjoy Jo’s South Congress. The pair is from Singapore. Verma, who graduated from UT in 2018, wanted to bring Tekriwal for a date at the iconic coffee shop while visiting Austin.
“(In other places) you can’t really walk around, see nature, see this kind of cool neighborhoods,” Verma said. “You end up just at either a mall or movie or restaurants. Not as diverse and as vibrant as Austin.”
Austin’s perfect score has proven accurate for couples like Boesenberg and Hotchkiss, Alfonso and Wilson and Tekriwal and Verma as they all credit the city as an important part in their love stories.
“Austin just got a great vibe!” Tekriwal said. “Everywhere is so happening. Like it doesn’t matter what day it is. Monday night, Sunday night, even during the day it’s great.”