Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dating Demography

Jon Birger has been researching the demography of dating and marriage in America, and has come up with some interesting statistics:
Multiple studies show that college-educated Americans are increasingly reluctant to marry those lacking a college degree. This bias is having a devastating impact on the dating market for college-educated women. Why? According to 2012 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, there are 5.5 million college-educated women in the U.S. between the ages of 22 and 29 versus 4.1 million such men. That’s four women for every three men. Among college grads age 30 to 39, there are 7.4 million women versus 6.0 million men—five women for every four men.
And this may have a significant influence on the culture:
Lopsided gender ratios don’t just make it statistically harder for college-educated women to find a match. They change behavior too. According to sociologists, economists and psychologists who have studied sex ratios throughout history, the culture is less likely to emphasize courtship and monogamy when women are in oversupply. Heterosexual men are more likely to play the field, and heterosexual women must compete for men’s attention.
And things are even worse for women in certain religious groups. In Utah, there are now 150 single Mormon women for each 100 single Mormon men. One result is that Salt Lake City leads the nation is cosmetic surgery, especially breast enlargement.

The main cause of the Mormon imbalance seems to be that far more Mormon men leave the faith than Mormon women, leaving churches full of unattached women. (Atheists, by contrast, are about 70 percent male.)

Among certain ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups around New York, there is talk of a "Shidduch Crisis," from the Hebrew word for marriage match. Single women far outnumber single men. But the demography seems to be completely different than that of Mormons. The cause is that Orthodox men are increasingly willing to wait longer before marrying and to marry someone substantially younger than they are. Plus, the population is growing by about 4% a year, so if men are marrying women three years younger the female cohort is 12% larger than the male.

There are also some weird geographic imbalances, which have to do with the availability of work. Certain American counties have as many as twice as many single men as women -- these are mostly places with major military bases, or lots of drilling for oil and gas. Others have twice as many single women as men.

It seems like a big lesson in how unnatural, in many ways, modern society has become. As we find more and more ways to divide ourselves up -- by religion, politics, lifestyle, etc. -- it becomes ever harder for everyone to find a mate.


David said...

I'm not sure contemporary society is more unnatural in this regard than past societies. Think of the imbalances caused by men traveling huge distances, often overseas, to work; the hyperspecialized (by class, religion, profession, etc.) marriage markets of premodern society; the large numbers of younger women in domestic service; the imbalances caused by the harem-building of rich men in some societies, the female infanticide practiced in some societies.

John said...

Indeed there must have been similar problems in, say, an early modern city divided into three or four religious factions, and also by lines of class and profession. I have read about Indians facing the problem that most people within their small castes are related to them, and outside it is very difficult to find what both families consider an equal match. So this is a problem of civilization writ large. And for primitives, the problem was the very small number of people you could ever meet. . . .