Writer Jon Birger statistically illustrates an often overlooked trend in his new book Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game : Far more women than men in the U.S. are graduating college. So, with the exception of a few notable regions (more on that later), straight women are sorely disadvantaged in today's dating market as long as they are looking to date college-educated men (more on that later, too).
Nationwide, there are four college-educated women ages 22 to 29 for every three college-educated men. In my city of Manhattan, that ratio is even worse: about three to two. So, if you're a straight woman having dating troubles, Birger wants you to know it's not you — or, "in the vernacular of the bestselling dating manuals, it's not that He's Just Not That Into You. It's that There Aren't Enough of Him," he writes.
In fact, Birger told me he grew inspired to write his book through conversations with attractive, successful female friends who had trouble getting dates. Their situation seemed improbable, but it kept popping up. He wanted to see if there was data to back up the pattern he observed, and it turned out there was.
So is there any hope left for the straight single women of New York, Chicago, L.A., and other lopsided U.S. cities? After hearing Birger's advice, it looks like the situation's not hopeless. With the caveat that this advice only applies IF you are a woman looking to meet more single men — and it's fine to have other preferences or priorities — here are four ways to correct for dating's lopsided gender ratio (note: the first renders the rest unnecessary).
1. Give Men Who Are Not College-Educated A Chance
For the most part, the problem is not a national shortage of men — it's a shortage of college-educated men. And that doesn't even need to be a problem, Birger says. The best advice he can give is to "open your hearts and minds to men who are not college graduates." And he cautions against viewing this as settling or "dating down." We have an "unhealthy bias against dating across socioeconomic lines," he said, and this attitude disadvantages everyone, since plenty of non-college-educated people are intellectual and cultured and plenty of college-educated people are not. "I reject the idea that dating a guy without a college degree is inherently settling."
Only dating college grads not only limits women's options but also "puts way too much leverage in the hands of those college grad men," he said. "It allows them to play the field if they know the women who are their peers are only willing to date college grad men."
He added that "online dating makes all this worse," since users can sometimes filter profiles based on education (or at least decide whether or not to message someone based on their education). "Online dating is a little bit like choosing options on a new car: 'Well, I want the power steering and the satellite radio,'" he joked. "Your custom design of what your perfect match would be is not necessarily who you would click with."
Birger predicts that the future will contain more of what he calls "mixed-collar marriages." "I just think it's inevitable, given the dating demographics, that we're going to see more educated professional women married to working-class guys," he said.
2. Go After What You Want
Though he admits he's not a dating expert, Birger says he's perplexed by the advice found in some dating experts' books, like "wait 34 hours to return his text message" or "if you sleep with him on the third date instead of the fourth date, your whole life is going to be ruined."
"There is this myth out there that men love the chase," he said. "I don't think guys like the chase, and I think they appreciate not having to play those games.... I interviewed too many guys who said, 'That's exhausting. Why would I go through that process if there's so many women out there who are just as nice or just as pretty or just as good conversationally?'"
Besides, the theory that someone would be more attracted to someone unavailable just doesn't make any sense, he said: "If you needed knee surgery and you were shopping around for the best orthopedist, and one orthopedist called you back for an appointment really quickly, would you not go to that orthopedist because he was too enthusiastic?"
For his book, Birger interviewed his rabbi about the nine couples he was about to marry. Seven of them had the same story: "The men all had several options, and the women they married were the ones who pursued them most aggressively."
Because there's so much competition out there, and because men find it refreshing to not have to pursue women and risk rejection, "the dating market favors aggressive women," he said.
3. Participate In Activities With Gender Ratios Skewed In Your Favor
Date-onomics goes as far as to suggest factoring gender ratios into your college and job choices. I'm skeptical of this advice, and Birger admits it has its limitations. Dating prospects are obviously a small factor (if one at all) in choosing a career, and the advice on college ratios is not just about finding a boyfriend, but also about getting away from hookup culture, which was more prevalent on the woman-dominated campuses he studied, if you want something more serious.
What you can do without making a drastic life decision is find activities that tend to include more men. Birger joked that, for whatever reason, atheists tend to predominantly be men, so if you have anti-religion sympathies, you may look for a group of that sort. For a less politically charged activity, sports and gaming come to mind. Some activities that have worked for me are rock climbing, chess, and Magic the Gathering, though the latter involves learning some pretty intricate rules that I wouldn't recommend studying just for the dating benefits. While some may worry that male-dominated interest groups could be chauvinistic, I've never had issues with any of those hobbies.
4. Live (Or Look) In Strategic Locations
"'Go West, Young Woman' could be the new mantra for freshly minted college grads," Birger writes. Due to the male-dominated tech industry, Silicon Valley provides the best dating market for women looking to meet college-educated men in the country. Santa Clara County, for example, has the opposite gender ratio of Manhattan: 38 percent more single college-educated men ages 22 to 29 than women. Seattle and Denver are also advantageous places for straight women, Birger said. There are also a few high-tech hubs in the East like Columbus, Ohio. Not that you should pick up and move across the country just for that reason. "If marriage is a low priority for you, probably the local gender ratios aren't going to be all that important," Birger said.
You can also make smaller adjustments to where you're looking in order to find more heterosexual men, especially if you're using online dating. "As odd as it sounds, the ratio of college grad single men to single women is generally better in the suburbs than it is in city centers," he said. So if you live in Manhattan, you may want to set your online dating matches to include men from Staten Island and Westchester, a few of the rare places with more college-educated single men than women.
If this seems like a whole lot of trouble just to date on an even playing field, I hear you — the struggle is real. But again, simply having an open mind to people of different educational backgrounds largely eliminates this problem. When we exclusively go after college-educated men, they can use their sought-after status as leverage to get what they want out of relationships (or lack thereof). As we expand our own options, we take the power back.
Whatever form it takes, Birger thinks change is inevitable. His book concludes: "Something has to give. Any market inefficiency that allows one group to take advantage of another is not sustainable so long as that inefficiency derives from discoverable information." I think I speak for many of the single, straight, college-educated women in New York when I say I hope that tipping point comes soon.
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