There are no women where I work. How do I go about finding a mate?

Dear Economist,

I am 40, never married, and more than ready to settle down. But I work in a sector that is virtually free of women. So, although I don’t smell, am not dramatically stupid or unattractive, I do not meet enough eligible women to find a soulmate.  Do you know a way out? –  Sincerely, Out with the Guys.

Lonely Guy

Lonely Guy

Dear Out with the Guys,

a word of comfort: you are not alone with your problem. We regularly hear similar stories from IT geeks, engineers, and the army staff…just to name a few. We actually also hear them from primary school teachers, nurses and nannies….in short, any job where one gender vastly outnumbers the other.

You are suffering from a situation that George Stigler (‘The Economics of Information’, 1961) would call ‘high search costs’. You can meet women, get to know and date them, but your ‘cost’ of doing so is much higher than in an evenly gendered market. You probably have to travel to meet a woman of your age, spend more money on gas, the phone and mail to keep in touch, and spend more time thinking about where to meet the right woman. All these are ‘costs’.

As you can read from our previous post, the first phase of the dating game can be seen as a search effort, similar to checking out various products before we know the quality range available in the market. Checking out an additional product provides you with a knowledge gain about the quality range. But, as the range is given, and won’t expand with searching, the benefit of getting to know an additional item – or person, rather – diminishes with each person met.  At the same time, the cost of meeting another person stays the same, for each and every additional person met. In your case, this cost is rather high.

Usually, a rational person stops searching when the additional benefit of meeting another person has diminished so far that it is equal to the cost of meeting another person. In your case, if we leave everything as it is, this situation would actually occur rather early. You would date few people before you settle, because the cost is just so high. In other words, you are readier to commit than some of your fellow daters.

This in itself makes you quite eligible for the other gender. Women tend to get serious with men who are ready to get serious.

On the other hand, we don’t have to leave everything as it is. You can lower your search costs, e.g. by using online dating, matching services, newspaper ads; and also, old-fashioned but effective: drawing on family and friends networks. If you want to maximize your search efforts even further, target your outings from the Guys’ Enclave towards places where you are likely to find many women: kindergartens, spas, cosmetic and shoe shops, aerobics, dance and yoga classes, classical music concerts, church and synagogue, and book clubs, just to name a few. Also, if you weren’t in a Guys’ Enclave previously, think back to that time and the women you knew then: anybody you would like to get back in touch with?  – Go for it (as long as she’s still free and not an ex) and reap the benefit of previously invested search expenditure.  – We don’t promise miracles, but the above efforts should dramatically improve your likelihood of meeting Mrs. Right.  FYI, Dr de Bergerac and her spouse (re)met like that, when actually already well past thirty, and so did a couple among their friends.

Now that we have more or less devised a strategy, let’s look at the likely outcome of a situation like yours. Being the majority gender may actually not be the worst thing (depending on the ratio..) especially if you are a guy. It is true that usually, the ‘outnumbered’ gender is the secret winner of a gender ratio out of sync, enjoying the competition for their favours, and dictating the market rules. So if more men compete for less women, the women dictate the rules. Turns out that in a dating market, that is not the worst thing. Joshua Angrist of the MIT found out that in communities where men outnumber women, there are more marriages, men earn generally more and parents of young children earn more. (How do Sex Ratios Affect Marriage and Labor Markets?, QJE 2002) Looks like in some areas of life, it’s ok to have the rules written by the ladies…

In any case, best of luck, and check back in with your success story.

Your Economist

6 thoughts on “There are no women where I work. How do I go about finding a mate?

  1. Pingback: 10 lessons on dating from this year’s Nobel Prize winners « The Economist’s Guide to Dating

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *