Yes, lots of guys have a thing for younger women — and yes, guys spend most of their time messaging younger women on dating apps — but it turns out a lot of guys may quietly be holding out for a cougar.

OkCupid data scientist Dale Markowitz looked at over 10 million successful conversations — defined as “convos that included at least at four messages back and forth with contact exchange” — to get some analytical insight into dating age gaps.

Markowitz found, first, that men start conversations 80 percent of the time. She also observed that 61 percent of conversations are between an older man and a younger woman — and that 31 percent of the time the woman is five or more years younger. So much, so obvious.

Where things got interesting is when Markowitz looked at reply rates. She found that when women do initiate a conversation, men are more likely to reply to an older woman than a younger woman. Indeed, a 40-year-old woman will have better luck messaging a 25-year-old man (60 percent reply rate) than she would a 55-year-old one (36 percent reply rate).

Here’s a chart showing a reply for different age pairings when she starts the conversation (on the left) and when he starts the conversation (on the right). Women, notably, are most likely to reply to suitors of their same age.

Why do men like older women? Markowitz’s 28-year-old friend, Trevor, says he likes them because “they have more interesting jobs and hobbies, and their profiles are just better.” We’ll leave it at that.

Photos via OKCupd, Flickr / Bob Haarmans