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Seeking a Husband? Move to Alaska.
According to a new Census analysis, there are about 90 unmarried men in the United States for every 100 unmarried women. But this ratio varies considerably by age: Under age 45, it is reversed.
Say you’re a 30-year-old American woman seeking a relationship with a man. Your odds are, by far, the best in North Dakota, where there are 192.2 unmarried men in the 30-34 age range for every 100 unmarried women in the same age range. Your odds are the worst in Washington, D.C., where the numbers are tilted decidedly in men’s favor. In D.C., there are only 86.5 unmarried men around your age for every 100 unmarried women.
These figures come from a new Census Bureau analysis on the ratio of unmarried men to women in the United States. This ratio is helpful in understanding the workings of the “marriage market” in any given demographic, since people obviously have a better chance of finding an eligible partner if there are more of them available.
Nationwide, the ratio for unmarried adults is about 90 men to 100 women. But this figure masks considerable variation depending on your age and where you live.
Let’s start with how old you are. Here we see a hump-shaped curve. The ratio is very low (under 60) for every age bracket over age 55. But it’s high (over 100) for every age bracket under age 45. This imbalance peaks in the 30-34 age range at 121 men per 100 women.
The high ratio of unmarried men to women at younger ages likely reflects the fact that men tend to get married later than women. Their median age at first marriage is 30.1, compared to 28.2 for women. This means that women are removed from the marriage market at a younger age than men. That’s not all. The age gap is further widened by remarriages, which have become a larger share of all marriages over time because of rising divorce rates. Men who remarry are 4X as likely as men getting married for the first time to have a partner who is more than 10 years younger than they are. (See “Young Men 2X More Likely Than Young Women to Be Single.”)
The reversal in the sex ratio at older ages is rooted in a different driver: On average, women live longer than men. Combine the higher average age of the husband with the greater longevity of the wife and the result is a much higher number of post-married (read: widowed) women at older ages because so many of them outlive their spouses.
The pattern of older men pairing up with younger women, combined with the fact that women live longer than men, mean that you would expect states with older populations to have relatively more unmarried women than men and vice versa. And this is indeed what we see.
Take a look at the charts below. The first plots each state’s unmarried sex ratio according to its median age. The oldest states are mostly clustered towards the left, while the younger states—with some exceptions—are skewed towards the right. The second chart shows which states have the highest and lowest ratios by age group.
These charts also illustrate is how labor markets can influence sex ratios. And this takes us to the question of where you live. Alaska and North Dakota, which have two of the highest ratios and some of the youngest median ages, are magnets for young men who come seeking work in industries like mining, oil, construction, and agriculture. They have the highest unmarried sex ratios for every age group except for 35-44, which is led by Wyoming (another state whose economy relies on male-dominated industries).
Washington, D.C. also stands out for being one of the youngest areas in the nation (second only to Mormon-heavy Utah) and for having the lowest unmarried sex ratio overall. In D.C., there are more unmarried women than men in every age bracket under 35.
Clearly, there’s something about the nation’s capital that attracts young unmarried women as opposed to young men. The answer is likely education, perhaps augmented (in this case) by a greater desire to work for the federal bureaucracy. D.C. is the most educated metro region in the country, with the highest share of residents with bachelor’s degrees and graduate degrees—and, as we know, more of these degrees are earned by young women than young men. We find this gender imbalance not only in D.C.; we also find it in many Southeast big cities like Atlanta and St. Louis. These metro areas all have large African-American populations, who have the biggest gender gap in college-degree attainment of all races.
Of course, dating is more than a numbers game. People aren’t just looking for any partner; they want a suitable partner. Overall, if you are a young woman looking for someone around your own age, the odds are hugely in your favor. The problem, as many Millennial women are finding (see “Millennial Women Just Can’t Find Enough Good Men”), is that you may not want to marry most of those your own age who remain unmarried. And you may not want to marry someone who isn’t at your educational level.
This is why even though these ratios make it look like young women are spoiled for choice, there are so many complaints that they can’t find partners.
Bottom line: If you’re a typical 30-year-old college-educated woman from the East Coast, you can go to Alaska or North Dakota in hopes of finding love. But the typical 30-year-old unmarried man you find in these states may not be exactly who you’re looking for.
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