A Lack of Natural Resources
When men outnumber women, ladies are likely to marry young. Why?
Relationships between the sexes often work like the economic law of supply and demand, says evolutionary psychologist Daniel J. Kruger, PhD, who studied the effects of male scarcity on female populations. When men outnumber women, Kruger found, women are more likely to marry at a younger age. The reason?
“Women get married significantly younger because men are more ready to commit to secure the relationship before someone else snaps her up,” Kruger, of the University of Michigan, tells demodirt.com.
When women are more plentiful, men are able to play the field and don’t need to commit as readily to get sex, but when women are scarce, the researcher explains, “men know they can’t get away with that,” because with more men available, women have more power and can choose another potential mate.
“When women have lot of options, guys with social status and resources will get married earlier,” Kruger states. “The men have to build up their social status and resources, and male marital age increases in variance because men are getting married younger and getting married older, when women are scarce.”
Surprisingly, he says, younger men and older men were getting married more often in this climate. Men who marry young presumably have more resources or potential for gaining wealth, Kruger notes. For example, they may be in medical school or on another career track to future prosperity. Older men, on the other hand, have already gathered their resources and social status, making them more marriageable.
When men outnumber women, the women can demand more while securing a commitment—“Men have to work at it a bit more,” Kruger says—however, the power dynamic works both ways, depending on the sex ratio.
“The scarce sex has more leverage so they can take more from the other sex and give less,” says Kruger.
Women are more likely to desire long-term commitment because their physiological investments, such as pregnancy and lactation, are more involved than male physiological investment when mating.
“Women are more selective, because their investment is greater, so women need greater relationship commitment, to keep their financial and social structure in place,” Kruger notes.
The notion that women want commitment while men want sex is a “kernel of truth” stereotype, he adds, although both sexes want both commitment and sex.
With the economical challenges that men and women are facing today, how will relationships between the sexes be affected?
The financial obstacles, Kruger says, means more stress on men, and those men with fewer resources will have the hardest time getting married.
“If men don’t have resources, it might be even more difficult for them to get married,” he predicts. “When men have higher levels of competition for women, they make riskier financial decisions.”
For men who are also living where women are scarce, wooing a mate using the traditional techniques will prove more difficult in this tough economy.
To get a woman, men are likely to pay for dinner and expensive presents even if they cannot afford it, Kruger maintains.
“They will also be more likely to try to get flashier cars and other portable displays of wealth,” he adds.
Even more alarming, when women are scarce, there are higher rates of accidents and injuries due to violence as men “literally fight over women,” Kruger says. “When women select partners, men are competing through display of resources and social status.”
When men are scarce, women also engage in exaggerated behavior to compete for men, and the slow economy affects them as well, Kruger states.
“Women’s mating effort increases when there are more women and men are scarce,” he maintains. “Women wear racier fashions like shorter skirts, and there are more out-of-wedlock births, because men have more sexual access without getting married, and there are more divorces.”
Family planning is also affected, Kruger adds.
“Women might wait it out, and realize that it is not a good time to start a family because resources are scarce, and are not as likely to have kids, because they need support,” he explains. “But some other women, who because of circumstances, might be willing to get hitched to a guy who is not optimal, because it will take too long or it is too difficult to get the guy who much better than him, may engage in satisficing, an economic term.”
In short, when men are scarce in a bad economy, women’s standards decrease, and someone who feels desperate may lower her standards to marry a less appealing man who she wouldn’t normally consider marrying, so that she will have a more stable financial and social structure.
An example of this dynamic is the dating scene in New York City, where Kruger found inspiration for this study. While visiting, he spotted a Time Out New York cover story about single women in Manhattan, and he started to contemplate the imbalance of the sexes.
“New York women are hungry for commitment, and the men know they have other options, that they can walk and find another girlfriend the next week,” he contends.
The reason for the fierce female competition? White collar office labor.
"Women migrate from more rural areas to the cities, especially in the Northeast, from the surrounding countryside and smaller cities,” Kruger explains. “They are attracted to the big city for office jobs, whereas men have disproportionately been attracted to the tech industry, so Silicon Valley and other places that are heavily male-biased, see more affluent men who can’t get a girlfriend.”
Recalling the TONY article, he notes that one woman in the story said that while women may go to Alaska due to the overabundance of men, “the odds are good but the goods are odd.”
Overall, an imbalanced sex ratio in either direction can cause problems for each sex and for society at large, Kruger concludes.“When there are more women, there is more promiscuity, risky sexual behavior, and a destabilization of marriage and monogamy,” he explains. “When there are more men, there is more violence and more accidents as men fight over women, and they make riskier financial decisions.”
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