Gender Imbalance

How unequal gender ratios affect dating behavior.

Posted Dec 01, 2019

Courtesy of Pixabay
Source: Courtesy of Pixabay

I have spent a great deal of time listening to women in New York City lament the difficulty they face in the dating scene despite being surrounded by so many people. In fact, during the Q&A sessions after my talks, someone will inevitably ask why it’s impossible to find a man who is interested in more than a hookup.

Yes, I am keenly aware of the broad generalization being made here, but this belief is in fact steeped in real numbers. The gender balance, or rather imbalance in this case, plays a large role in not only the number of available partners, but the dating habits of people as well.

Balance and Behaviors

In his book Date-Onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game, business journalist Jon Birger notes the lopsidedness of college-educated females to males in many urban areas. Basically, what this does is create competition for access to the single educated males.

In areas where there are more single males than females, the women are the ones dictating how the dating game is played. This is because the single women are scarce, and as such, a hot commodity. In these areas, traditional courtship is more common. In the reverse scenario, where there are more single females, as is common in New York City, dating becomes more sexualized and hookups are common. This is because there are more women competing for single men. In addition, as a result of this imbalanced educated female-to-male ratio, women are more likely to emphasize their appearance as they “compete” for mates. They are also more likely to settle when it comes to their selection. The previous discussion of course focuses on heterosexual couples, monogamous relationships, and gender-stereotypical beliefs about what women and men want in the realm of dating.  As such, it does not paint a complete picture of the dating landscape.

What the Research Says

Research also supports these claims. A 2010 study by Uecker and Regnerus found that on college campuses heavily dominated by women, women were more likely to be sexually active and likely to have gone on fewer traditional dates than on campuses without this imbalance.

Their findings were explained by both the dyadic power thesis and the demographic opportunity thesis. With regard to the dyadic power thesis, the gender in the minority is the one that gains the power within the relationships. They also note that the more reliant an individual is on his/her partner, the more power that is ceded to him/her (Ueker & Regnerus, 2010). The demographic opportunity thesis also explains their findings. This thesis posits that an unequal ratio leads to fewer potential options for one gender. Therefore, if there are more women available, they have fewer potential male partners to choose from (Ueker & Regnerus, 2010). 

In relating these theses to the study, the dyadic power thesis explains why women in their study reported that they weren’t likely to have boyfriends if they didn’t have sex. In addition, the women in their study also viewed men as less likely to be ready for commitment. Here you see that the sex in the majority (women, in this case) cedes their power to the men. The latter theory, the demographic opportunity thesis, explains why women in their sample reported having more difficulty in finding men to date in the first place.


As Birger notes in his book, women may be better off going to areas such as Silicon Valley to find a plethora of marriage-minded single men. However, if you are happy with your current locale, perhaps you may just take comfort in knowing that the dating dilemma you may be facing is not all in your head.

Facebook image: William Perugini/Shutterstock


Birger, J. (2015). Date-Onomics: How dating became a lopsided numbers game. New York: Workman Publishing.

Uecker, J. E., & Regnerus, M. D. (2010). Bare market: Campus sex ratios, romantic relationships, and sexual behavior. The Sociological Quarterly, 51(3), 408-435.