The Worst Cities for College-Educated Women Trying to Find a Decent Date

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Are you a young, college-educated woman? Are you looking to settle down one day with a young, college-educated man? A word of advice: Stay away from Sarasota, Florida.  

No offense intended to Sarasota's bachelors -- I'm sure they're lovely. But for every ten guys under 35 with a diploma, there are roughly 18 female college grads the same age roaming the city's greater metro area. Nobody's beach body is worth battling those odds. 

Of course, Sarasota is just an extreme example of what's true all over America. The number of college-educated women now far outstrips the number of college-educated men, which in turn has diminished their options in the dating pool (as you might be aware, a couple of Atlantic articles have touched on this issue). Since most romance is local, I've spent the last few days sorting through Census data on the country's 100 or so largest metro areas to figure out where the disparities are worst -- or in other words, where a college-educated woman might have the hardest time finding a good date. 

(Scroll down to the bottom to see the results in a sortable table. The geeks out there can stick around for a light dose of sociology.)

One of the great social narratives of the past half century is that Americans have been self-segregating into cultural and class enclaves, in part by marrying people more and more educationally similar themselves. Whereas once the country was full of Mad Men characters happy to turn their secretary into their lawfully wedded housewife, the story goes, now people pair off with spouses they meet in college, or while collaborating on a work project, or through mutual, equally well-schooled friends. 

But that's not really the whole tale. As Stanford sociologist Michael Rosenfeld documented in a 2008 paper, contemporary women are less likely to marry a fellow bachelor's degree holder  than they were in 1960, and about 11 percentage points less likely to than today's men. 

Rosenfeld_Endogamy_Education.PNG

This isn't entirely bad news. Decades ago, women who went to college had a noticeably smaller chance of getting married than those who didn't. Today, they've closed most, if not all, of that gap. The unfortunate side effect is that there is now more competition among them for spouses. And with females about 27 percent more likely to earn a bachelor's than males, many find themselves marrying down the educational ladder.

Though the education gap is worst for Hispanics and Blacks, it crosses racial boundaries. I t has also gotten more severe over the last few decades. In 1995, women and men ages 25 to 29 were about equally likely to have a B.A. Now, the balance looks like this:

NCES_Bachelors_Attainment_2011.PNG

Which brings us to today's relatively thin pool of college educated guys. The next chart shows the percent by which college-educated women outnumber men in the 15 largest American metro areas. Even in and around Seattle, the most balanced city, there are more than eight graduated females for every seven graduated males.

Census_The_College_Man_Shortage.PNG

The median gap among all 102 metro areas I considered was 29.7 percent -- right between New York City and Chicago. Sarasota, with its yawning 82 percent gulf, had the biggest oversupply of women. In fact, Florida, the Southeast generally, and some of California's more economically desolate regions all seemed to offer college-educated women particularly bad odds. 

Of course, none of these metro areas really offer women good odds, as you can see in the table below. But college towns, tech-centers, the Midwest, and (for whatever reason) Utah's major metro areas seemed to offer some of the most abundant educated male populations. You can play around with the data below. [Update: 10:41 AM - Since there seems to be a bit of confusion, I'd just like to reiterate that this table includes all 102 U.S. metro areas with 500,000 or more residents. So just because a city is on the list doesn't automatically make it one of "the worst." Rather, the lower the ranking, the worse its gap.]

Google Visualization API Sample

Percentage by which college educated women under 35 outnumber college educated men under 35. (Source: American Community Survey 3-year estimates)


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Jordan Weissmann is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

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