June 09, 2009
Mating Patterns When Men Are Scarce

In cities were men are scarce the get married later but get married at higher rates in their 30s.

There are about nine unmarried men for every 10 unmarried women in Birmingham, Memphis, New Orleans, and Richmond-Petersburg, Virginia, Kruger says. Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Baltimore, and New York metropolitan areas are tied for the next region where women are relatively most plentiful. In these areas, about 84 percent of the men aged 20-24 are unmarried. In Las Vegas, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Austin, and Phoenix, there are about nine unmarried women for every 10 unmarried men. In these areas, about 77 percent of the men aged 20-24 are unmarried.

Once those young men hit their 30s, they tend to shift from seeking short-term relationships to entering into committed relationships. That's because when women evaluate partners for short-term relationships they value physical features signaling the kind of genes that would be passed on to potential offspring, which may be the only legacy of men who don't stick around for child rearing. These physical features decline as men age, making it more difficult to lure women into uncommitted relationships.

"You see a complete reversal in the pattern," Kruger said, and thus, proportionately more older men are married when women outnumber men.

The first result, men delaying marriage in order to play the field, is not surprising. But the second result is more interesting. It could have broken either way. Guys could have kept playing the field since their odds would stay favorable for finding women for one night stands and short term relationships. But the guys instead use their favorable ratio with women to find women they find suitable to marry.

I'd like to see a more detailed study where men and women are rated in attractiveness and then their mating patterns followed through time. Are the best looking more or less likely to delay marriage? Also, is the divorce rate higher in cities with more men than women or vice versa?

Also, who is more mobile? The most attractive or people with lower levels of beauty?

Update: Maybe the results make sense because as a guy gets older his sex drive diminishes and his desire to bed lots of women goes down. So maybe the higher marriage rate after 30 is a reflection of a weaker desire to spread genes.

Update II: At least one commenter misses the point here: In a city with fewer men and more women a lower status and less attractive male probably has better odds of finding a woman who will marry him. Yet in just such a city either men delay getting married or women decide to become far less inclined to get married. Why do men become less likely to get married when they have more choices? Due to decisions by the men or due to decisions by the women? I figure the men make different decisions and decide to play the field more since they see more opportunities. It would make sense for men to respond this way because evolution has selected men to want to seduce more women since women invest more in reproduction for each child than men do.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 June 09 08:29 PM  Brain Sexuality

Heavy C said at June 10, 2009 9:47 AM:

"people with lower levels of beauty"

is that a euphemism for "ugly"?

euphrosyne said at June 10, 2009 10:40 AM:

"and thus, proportionately more older men are married when women outnumber men."

So which is the cause and which is the effect, and how does he demonstrate that? This seems like mightily circular reasoning: In areas with fewer unmarried men, there are proportionately more married men! Amazing!

Jack is Back! said at June 10, 2009 10:42 AM:

Best city in the world for a straight male? San Francisco, natch!

TallDave said at June 10, 2009 11:21 AM:

"making it more difficult to lure women into uncommitted relationships."

Women really don't need much "luring." They like casual sex too.

A more likely cause is that women who want to marry tend to look for older, financially stable men, who are generally in their thirties. Women who just want to screw around and have fun are looking for men in their 20s.

Whitehall said at June 10, 2009 11:22 AM:

The traditional pattern was for older men who were not married to be losers. With an excess of females, females try harder and lower their standards to get a guy, any guy.

More buyers than sellers reduces inventory.

Froggy said at June 10, 2009 12:18 PM:

"I'd like to see a more detailed study..." Really? Is this where research money should be spent going forward? This kind of asinine research accomplishes nothing. In fact it accomplishes less than nothing, because if research $ were not spent on useless surveys and the idiots who design them, perhaps it could be spent on something that has potential value to society. Who needs this information? Insurance companies? I can't think of anyone else who can tangibly benefit from this type of study.

Can we all agree that curing... something... anything would be better than more of this crap? Super.

Abraxas said at June 10, 2009 1:09 PM:

How about curing Internet Snark?

I'd pay money for that.

Bill Johnson said at June 10, 2009 1:27 PM:


If it wasn't your money, shut up. It was a University of Michigan study - did you contribute?

So to answer your question - Yes. Them what has the money decides what to research. You wanna research cures - go to it.

whiskey said at June 10, 2009 4:48 PM:

Oh please, Futurepundit, you're making dumb assumptions that (IMHO) only a guy far older and outside the mating game could make.

Most men in their twenties don't have much sex at all. They're lucky to have sex once a year, if that. Because most men in their twenties lack that which makes men attractive to women: power/status/social dominance.

At most, about 20% of men have sex frequently (at least once a month) and chase lots of girls.

Women, on the other hand, have what men want: youth and beauty which is totally unrelated to power. Most halfway attractive women have sex once a month. Usually with the same few dominant men.

Men eventually (the 80% that are not socially dominant) gain power and status. And women age out of attractiveness in their thirties and are FORCED to consider, that if they want to marry, they'll have to marry a guy they never would have looked at during their twenties. That most of these marriages don't last should come as no surprise. Most of the women have had far more sexual partners than their husbands, making their husbands less desirable (other women didn't want them). Meanwhile the far greater sex partners for women make them less desirable to men (little chance of bonding, strongest emotions with past lovers) and of course the women are older, less pretty.

What you fail to understand Futurepundit is that not all men and women are created equal in the sexual marketplace. Men only have value if they are socially dominant, this applies to DJs, bartenders, alt indie musicians, and the like for men in their twenties. Women don't want men in their twenties who don't fall into these categories at any price. Meanwhile, men want a certain level of attractiveness, and low scores for sex partners, higher intelligence (less chance of cheating, higher future time orientation). Young, nice, and pretty in other words.

BOTH partners settle, but that settling happens on women's terms, when they stop chasing the high testosterone bad boys and realize that if they want to marry, they must act quickly as their market power decreases exponentially each year. Women don't get the highly charged, testosterone laden bad boys they want (a significant portion choose single motherhood for these men as fathers) and men don't get pretty women with low sex partners. This should not shock anyone considering the high rate of divorce.

goodterling said at June 10, 2009 6:29 PM:

What whiskey said.

Randall Parker said at June 10, 2009 7:13 PM:


No, I'm not making the assumptions you think I'm making. Yes, I understand that highly attractive women get far more attention then women at lower attraction levels. Yes, I know lots of guys do not get laid at all. I understand alphas, betas, and all that. Yes, a small number of guys seduce a larger number of girls and some of the lesser girls stay single when they find they can't get an alpha to marry them. Really, I understand it in great detail. I just leave it to Roissy to far more ably write about it.

But you are missing what happens on the margin. Yes, some guys marry in their 20s. Yes, some never marry. But that there's a difference between cities that depends on the ratio of males to females is interesting. The guys who are not marrying in the cities with higher ratios of females to males are probably disproportionately alpha guys because they benefit most from the female:male higher ratio.

Social dominance and women who don't want lower status men: Yet it is the guys in the cities who have more women and fewer men that are the guys who get married at lower rates in their 20s. The fact that there's more women would make it easier for lower status men to get married in their 20s in such cities. Yet it is the cities where lower status males have a better chance at getting married where the guys are less likely to get married. You are missing this.

whiskey said at June 10, 2009 11:46 PM:

Having read the study a bit further, there's a lot of "noise" in the data.

First off, Birmangham, Memphis, and New Orleans are majority Black cities, and so are Philly, DC, Baltimore, with New York having substantial amounts of Blacks and also Hispanics (mostly Puerto Rican origin). Now, you can make statistical comparisons to the White populations and find hugely significant differences. For example, much of the imbalance is due to a large amount of young Black men in Jail or under judicial supervision. There's also a far higher rate of illegitimacy (around 90% in the urban core for Blacks, and 50% for Hispanics). These numbers are up btw from Hispanics at 17% in 1980 and Blacks nationally at 24% in 1965 vs. 70% nationwide today. The White rate is about 20% for middle class women and 40% for working class (according Charles Murray).

This makes an apples-to-apples comparison with say, Vegas or San Diego or Salt Lake City (White to White-Hispanic mixture) hard to make. Given vastly different rates of marriage: most Whites do get married or expect to, about half or less Hispanics do, and almost no Black women get married, certainly almost none in the Urban Core.

If we are talking about White professionals in urban job centers, I don't think that the data are inconsistent with women, not men, making the decision, and I don't see how guys would have an "easier" time getting married even with more women if the women are unwilling to "sacrifice" options on more attractive men with guys frankly building power/status/money. It's not as if marriage, which generally requires a house or at least Condo and mortgage, is cheap in places like Park Slope Brooklyn, or Georgetown, or what Philly? The latter city is a war zone, and the presence of such high crime and dangerous areas makes it highly desirable to live in only the best areas. That definitely applies to New Orleans, a place I lived in (pre-Katrina) for three years. You wanted to live either out in Metarie, across the Lake in Slidell somewhere, or in Uptown in Audobon Park or as close as you could get. Even in the Garden District go one block off Magazine and you're in crack houses. This makes housing and therefore marriage hugely expensive in these cities.

Meanwhile, Salt Lake City or Austin or or Vegas San Diego have loads of cheap, convenient, and cheap real estate. Making marriage far more affordable.

This study does not on more reflection pass the "smell test" of accounting for factors such as affordability of marriage (can a young man without much resources swing a marriage, in practical terms?) Much less racial factors accounting for much higher rates of imprisonment, women essentially outside the marriage market (Black Urban Core women) and so on.

It's just as likely that these factors, the high real estate costs and women who have the option in their twenties of more attractive, dominant guys cause delayed marriage. Whereas in more "flat" Western Cities, with cheaper real estate leveling income and dominance, women are more likely to give up their option on the dominant guy for marriage. Their opportunity cost is less. Whereas in expensive real estate cities, mostly back East, guys are mostly unattractive until they earn some cash, and the dominant guys pass over women.

Having more women around is only a factor if: !. They are of the same race and status (cross race/status marriages are fairly rare outside the US Military), 2. Women do not have a "price floor" beyond which a man cannot go, 3. Women are not influenced by opportunity costs of forgone hotter guys in their peak years.

I suspect more women would make these factors, but there would have to a LOT more women. My guess is more like a 60-40% ratio as in College. Every guy who did well in College (60-40 now outside Ivies) and then hits the dry spell in his twenties knows how well that works. "Ladies lower your standards" only works (to quote John Lovitz) when they actually have to. There's enough willingness to share the same small pool of hot guys to enable that strategy at near parity levels, the imbalance has to get significantly larger as in College for it to tilt the other way I think.

A quick check of Memphis shows it 61% Black, 33% White, so it looks like I'm track (figures according to Memphis.about.com).

M. Simon said at June 11, 2009 10:44 AM:

If the subject interests you this might be of interest:


Randall Parker said at June 11, 2009 7:27 PM:


Your argument is plausible. Affordable family formation is an important factor in mating behavior. But why is the ratio of men to women higher in areas where housing is cheaper? Why would more heavily white areas have a higher than 1 ratio of men to women? Where are those white women going to? Or is the migration of white men into an area rather than white women out of it?

Allan said at June 13, 2009 10:59 PM:

As a male who lives in one of the above named cities, I can tell you that finding a date isn't difficult. I can also tell you that many of the women that I've dated have turned out to be married. Does that mean that women are taking advantage of marriage proposals from guys they don't love? I don't know but it could be an underlying factor of the high divorce rate as women trade up.

Another factor to consider that men are delaying or even forgoing marriage. The courts do not favor men in divorce or custody battles. Men stand to lose a lifetime's work. The best option in states that do not have common law marriage is just to live with the woman.

Kenny said at June 17, 2009 4:25 PM:

Allan hit the nail on the head. Men do want a stable, loving relationship but also want options should that relationship sour. As a man who has been through the ringer I try to convince men to forget about the lose-lose situation of marriage. If a woman refuses to spend the rest of her life with you unless you get married then it is not truly a relationship based on love. Marriage used to signify a promise between 2 people. That has not been the case for a long time. Now marriage is just a way for women to "get comfy" while making plans for the remainder of their lives, without you of course.

If I sound bitter it is because I am. I have seen too many good, caring men destroyed by the "woman of their dreams." I myself was married for 13 years until she walked out immediately upon receiving her U.S. citizenship. She came from a well-to-do Chinese family and was here in the U.S. on a student/work visa. She didn't need a dime of our mutual assets but still ran off with 90% of all of our savings and investments. She apologized for hurting me and said that it was just a coincidence that she ended up in Seattle and made COO of her wealthy brother's electronics company. Pretty ironic that there should be a banner ad to meet Chinese women just above this comment box.

My attorney told me that the 50% divorce statistic in the U.S. is just a weighted average and definitely not representative of the actual. He said that the actual divorce statistic ranges from 50% to a whopping 70% based on locality. Large metro areas are merely revolving doors for relationships where first marriages are considered the "starter marriage" and are EXPECTED to fail. Why the hell should any man even consider marriage when the odds are stacked against him from the beginning?

James of Jester said at June 18, 2009 2:25 PM:

'Jack is Back' said the best city for straight males to go hunting for females is San Francisco.

I'd think that would depend upon how many females who live in San Francisco are actually straight themselves. It wouldn't be much fun to go there expecting to find lots of horny ladies looking for eligible males, if it turned out the population of females there are mostly gay.

To add insult to injury, it would be even less fun to discover that the gay men population might get very busy attempting to lure an attractive straight guy into their dens. "Come into my den, said the spider to the fly." I'm sure a new male of any persuasion would be seen as fresh meat and would receive the adoring admiration of many frisky gay men.

Now, wouldn't that be fun for a straight guy?!?

Preppy said at August 15, 2009 9:12 PM:

I agree with whiskey. Whiskey is 100% correct about: “Men eventually (the 80% that are not socially dominant) gain power and status. And women age out of attractiveness in their thirties and are FORCED to consider, that if they want to marry, they'll have to marry a guy they never would have looked at during their twenties.”

I have lived in New York City and Los Angeles and I definitely saw the previously mentioned dynamic play out. After college I lived and worked in NYC while I was in my 20s, it was so common to see drop dead gorgeous women go after buff meat heads who at best barely had a GED. At the MBA program I was in, there were definitely a short list of men most women wanted and everyone else was a pass. When women for the school of medicine and some of the other of the graduate programs started to go after male MBA students, the female MBA quickly changed their tune and become very friendly.

Kenny, it is interesting that you stated “Pretty ironic that there should be a banner ad to meet Chinese women just above this comment box.” I have noticed for the last several months almost all the banners on the internet are about dating black women (like the one above). I am pretty tired of seeming those banners every where and flooding my e-mail account with those ads.

Post a comment
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
Remember info?

Go Read More Posts On FuturePundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright