How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game

Posted by in love after 40, online dating after 40 | 0 comments

numbers game

Is dating just a numbers game, where women far outnumber men? If so, what can you do about it? A lot, says author Jon Birger.

My podcast guest, Jon Birger, is the author of “DATE-ONOMICS: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game.” A former senior writer at both Fortune and Money, Jon has also written for Barron’s, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, New York Magazine, Time, and The Washington Post. He was named one of the “Power Players in Technology Business Media” by AlwaysOn Network.

A familiar face and voice on television and radio, Jon has appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America, BBC World Service, CNBC, CNN, MSNBC, National Public Radio, and Fox News. A graduate of Brown University, Jon lives with his family in Larchmont, N.Y.

Download/listen, and check out the show notes for EP348: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game.

You’re a married man with children. Why did you write this book on dating?

It has a lot to do with where I worked. At Fortune, there were more women than men. The women had more going for them dating-wise, and they were unhappily single. Their dating stories were bad. I couldn’t figure out why dating was so much harder for women than men.

These women claimed to never get asked out at all. I thought it might have something to do with New York and the disproportionate number of women in the city. When I dug into the census numbers, I discovered this was an ‘everywhere’ phenomenon. There are four women graduating from college for every three men, and 33% more women are in the dating market.

How do you know the root cause is sex ratios generally and the imbalance in college specifically?

When women are in oversupply, the culture tends to be less monogamous, and the divorce rate is higher. The college thing wouldn’t matter so much if we were more open-minded about who we date and marry.

There’s a term, assortative mating, which is a mating pattern and a form of sexual selection in which individuals with similar phenotypes mate with one another more frequently than would be expected under a random mating pattern. Some examples of similar phenotypes are body size, skin coloration/pigmentation, and age.


This is why college grads tend to date college grads.

Online dating exacerbates the problem. There’s a lot of screening and filtering on the dating sites; age, race, religion, whether you’re a dog/cat person, etc. In reality, all you’ve described is yourself. You’re not necessarily screening for the person you’d click with.

In pre-internet age, if you met a guy at a party or church and hit it off, the fact that he’s younger or didn’t finish college wouldn’t matter. Online, you’d never look at these profiles.

How do we fix this?

  1. Date Younger: I’m a big fan of OkCupid’s dating data blog. They came up with a study about age gaps in dating. They found a 40-year-old woman has better luck writing to a 25-year-old man. I know women who were divorced and dating men 15 years younger. It wouldn’t occur to a lot of older women to date much younger man. Men are attracted to women who know who they are and are ‘fully formed’. So, try dating younger.
  2. Mixed-Collar Dating. There’s something to be said about couples who aren’t in exactly the same place in life. Mixed-collar works because there’s nothing competitive in these couples.
  3. Throw Out the College Requirement. Uncheck the college box. You might click with many people who don’t show up on your profile feed.
  4. If there’s someone you like in real life, have the courage to ask them out. It’s a better use of your time than online dating. Guys like women who like them. Let him know!
  5. If you’re thinking about relocating anyway, there are parts of the country that are more friendly for women. The sex ratio is milder as you head west. San Jose has a lot of lonely single male engineers. The divorce rate is low, and women have all the leverage.

Follow Jon on Twitter @jonbirger1

Learn more about Jon Birger and buy his book here.

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