What if it really did rain men (or women)? No, seriously – imagine thousands of attractive, available singles suddenly fell from the sky and moved in to your town. How would this change your approach to dating? I don’t know about you, but with lots of new people potentially interested in me, I think I would become pickier about whom I liked, since I know that I now have more options. To test this hypothesis, I looked at how many men and women live in each major city across the U.S. (from the U.S. Census), and compared this to how often men and women on Coffee Meets Bagel LIKE their matches (using 800,000 matches). The idea is that the more singles of the opposite sex there are in your city, the more options you have, and therefore, you become pickier. I only looked at the dating statistics for straight users for now, but will investigate this for gay users soon.
Before I share the results, a quick refresher on how CMB works: Every day at noon, CMB introduces members to one single (a.k.a. a “Bagel”), whom they must LIKE or PASS within 24 hours. These Bagels are friends of friends who also meet the member’s basic match preference criteria – gender, age, race, religion – which the members tell us when they first register with CMB. A mutual LIKE leads to a direct connection via a private phone line that the couple can use to communicate.
Now that you’re reminded of how CMB works, let’s see if having more options allows men and women to be pickier about their bagels. First, let’s see what men do.
Men’s Pickiness vs. Number of Women Available to Them
As I predicted, men in cities like NYC and DC, where there are a lot of women available, LIKED their matches much less often than men in cities where there are fewer women (e.g., San Antonio and Denver). This doesn’t surprise me – when they have a lot of options to choose from, men can afford to be picky! Does having more options also make women pickier?
Women’s Pickiness vs. Number of Men Available to Them
Things actually looked very different for women. Women in larger cities like New York and Los Angeles, with lots of men available, were actually less picky than women in smaller cities like Detroit or Seattle. This really surprised me: women in cities with less men are pickier? This is exactly the opposite of what I expected! Can it really be right?
What we haven’t accounted for is the competition factor: if you’re a woman in a big city with a lot of men to choose from, there are also a lot of other women going after the same men. Since having more options means having more competition, we need to compare pickiness to the relative availability of men and women, that is, the ratio of men to women, instead of the absolute number of men or women available. This simultaneously measures how many options and how much competition each gender faces for the opposite sex. With this new definition of availability, let’s take another look at how picky men are.
Men’s Pickiness vs. Relative Availability of Women
With this new definition of availability, which accounts for competition, men are still behaving in the way I expect: in cities where men are relatively scarce (e.g., New York, DC, Boston), they are pickier than in cities where they dominate (e.g., Seattle). I highlighted only the biggest cities to illustrate the effect. This is what I expected, and matches what we saw before when we looked at pickiness versus absolute number of women to choose from. How do women respond to the relative availability of men?
Women’s Pickiness vs. Relative Availability of Men
As before, things looked very different for women. Women completely ignore the relative availability of the opposite sex when they check out their match. For example, although DC has more women than men, women in DC like their matches just as often as the women in San Francisco, where there are a lot more men than women.
****** We interrupt this blog post with a public service announcement to the women of San Francisco: don’t like so many guys!!! There are more of them than there are of you, which means you have the power to choose! When you see an illiterate guy still living in his parents’ basement, don’t hesitate to pass him over for the tall, suave, handsome gentleman. He’ll be lucky to have you. ******
We now return to our regularly scheduled blog post.
In summary, men are more likely to LIKE their match when women are in short supply, but for women, the scarcity or abundance of men doesn’t even register. Why could this be? Imagine that a man and a woman are (separately) looking for a date for Saturday night. If they can’t find a suitable date, his back-up plan is to hang out with the guys, while her back-up plan is to go out with her friends. What these findings suggest is that our imaginary guy strongly prefers to go out on a date – when it is hard to find a date (because there is a lot of competition and/or few options), he responds by LIKING more of his matches to increase his chances of finding someone to go out with. But our imaginary lady doesn’t care if her match is the last guy on Earth; she will only go out with him if she wants to, perhaps because she is equally happy to go out with her friends as to go out on a date. This is just my guess – why do you think men respond to the level of competition, or number of options, while women don’t? Let me know in the comments!
Did you enjoy this post? Read more dating stats and surprising sex facts
About Coffee Meets Bagel (CMB): CMB is a free dating service that helps members make meaningful connections. It’s designed for busy singles who want to find something real with little or no effort.