A scarcity of college men leads women to choose briefcase over baby

April 17, 2012, University of Minnesota

American women today are more likely to earn college degrees than men with women receiving 57 percent of all bachelor's and 60 percent of all master's degrees. But are there consequences to having more women than men in college?

Research from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and University of Minnesota has found the ratio of men to women dramatically alters women's choices about career and family. When men are scarce, women delay having children and instead pursue high-paying careers.

"Most women don't realize it, but an important factor in a woman's career choice is how easy or difficult it is to find a husband," said Kristina Durante, assistant professor of marketing at the UTSA College of Business. "When a woman's prospects look bleak – as is the case when there are few available men – she is much more likely to delay starting a family and instead seek a career."

In one study, the researchers examined the ratio of single men to single women in each U.S. state and Washington D.C. They found that as bachelors became scarce, the percentage of women in high-paying careers increased, women delayed having children, and had fewer kids when they finally decided to start a family.

In another study on college campuses, the researchers led women to believe that there were either more men or less men on campus by having participants read one of two news article about the student population. When women read that there were fewer men than women on campus, they became more motivated to pursue ambitious careers rather than start a family.

"A scarcity of men leads women to invest in their careers because they realize it will be difficult to settle down and start a family," said study coauthor Vlad Griskevicius, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. "In fact, the strongest effects were found for women who are least likely to secure a mate."

"Women who judged themselves to be less desirable to men—those women who are not like Angelina Jolie—were most likely to take the career path when men became scarce," added Durante.

This research highlights a sexual paradox associated with women's economic and educational advancement. "As women pursue more education and more lucrative careers when they can't find a husband, the ironic effect is that it will only get harder to find a husband as women become more educated and earn higher salaries," said Durante. "This is because a woman's mating standards keep increasing as she becomes more educated and wealthy, which further decreases the number of suitable mates. More than ever before, modern are increasingly forced to make tough choices such as choosing briefcase over baby."

Explore further: Motherhood 'detrimental' to women's scientific careers, study concludes

More information: "Sex Ratio and Women's Career Choice: Does a Scarcity of Men Lead Women to Choose Briefcase Over Baby?" was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Related Stories

Many top US scientists wish they had more children

August 8, 2011

Nearly half of all women scientists and one-quarter of male scientists at the nation's top research universities said their career has kept them from having as many children as they had wanted, according to a new study by ...

Women prefer prestige over dominance in mates

December 17, 2008

A new study in the journal Personal Relationships reveals that women prefer mates who are recognized by their peers for their skills, abilities, and achievements, while not preferring men who use coercive tactics to subordinate ...

Recommended for you

Archaeologists find ancient necropolis in Egypt

February 24, 2018

Egypt's Antiquities Ministry announced on Saturday the discovery of an ancient necropolis near the Nile Valley city of Minya, south of Cairo, the latest discovery in an area known to house ancient catacombs from the Pharaonic ...

A statistical look at the probability of future major wars

February 22, 2018

Aaron Clauset, an assistant professor and computer scientist at the University of Colorado, has taken a calculating look at the likelihood of a major war breaking out in the near future. In an article published on the open ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Apr 17, 2012
Several relatively easy degrees exist for women in "traditionally female" fields, which lead to careers that pay at or above the mean income.

Nursing and teaching.

I could go back to college and take a nursing or teaching curriculum and ace the damn thing, probably in less than average time too, because they don't have ANY hard courses in the curriculum. Most of it is high school level courses that I actually tested out of in college placement exams.

The same could be said for journalism.

Wow, you take a bunch of writing and speech classes, and some 9th grade level general curriculum in math and science, all of which I tested out of, and you get paid as much as $80k to $200k per year or more, depending on what position you can land, especially if it is with a big network.

I guess if women want to make more money, which nobody faults them for, they should be prepared to marry a "displaced male", because that's what our society produced in the past 30 to 40 years.
not rated yet Apr 17, 2012
Even a small town, local news channel anchor makes more money than an entry level STEM position.

Unless you are a plant manager or process engineer, you won't beat the mid-level journalists nor the mid-level nurses (such as a nurse educator or a NP.)

So the traditionally "male" jobs actually require significantly more education and experience in much harder subject matter to make the same income as traditionally "female" or uni-sex positions.

I should know.

I did a tax return for a nurse educator one time, and she worked no more than 36 hours per week and made 110k, by the time you count bonus, which was more than twice as much income as her husband who worked twice as many hours.

She made nearly as much income as off-shore operators and process engineers who worked twice as many hours as her.
not rated yet Apr 17, 2012
iow selling blabla to groups pays off, politicians dito, the critical factor being to do this with confidence like you really believe it...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.