- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2007

Young single women living in the District who suspect there aren’t a lot of eligible bachelors should trust their intuition.

Like Maryland and 10 other states, the District has a higher ratio of young unmarried women compared with young unmarried men, according to 2004 data from the Census Bureau’s new “American Community Survey.”

In other states, the disparity runs the other way: In Virginia and 15 states in the Midwest and West, the bachelors outnumber the bachelorettes.

For marriage-minded women, it’s still “go West, young woman, go West,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia.

The data raise questions: Why is more than half the nation lopsided in its distribution of young single men and women? And what does this mean for single people seeking a mate and groups trying to revive a marriage culture?

The average national ratio of unmarried people ages 15 to 44 is 108 men to 100 women, bureau analyst Rose M. Kreider reported in her study, “Marital Status in the 2004 American Community Survey.”

Many states, including those in New England, the Pacific Northwest, the Ohio Valley, and Texas and most of its neighbors, fall into the “evenly matched” category, she said. Essentially, “there’s one unmarried man for every unmarried woman.”

But 16 states have significantly higher ratios of single men to single women. In Nevada, for instance, there are 132 men to 100 women, and ratios in Montana (122 men to 100 women) and Idaho (121 men to 100 women) are similarly high.

Virginia’s ratio is more modestly elevated, with 112 men to 100 women.

In addition, of the nation’s nine cities with at least 1 million people, five — Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas and Houston — have higher than average ratios of single guys to single women, census data showed.

On the flip side, the District, five Southern states, Michigan, Ohio, Maryland, Delaware, New York and Rhode Island abound in single women, compared with single men.

In the District, the ratio is 93 men to 100 women; in Maryland, it’s 99 men to 100 women.

Among the nation’s largest cities, Philadelphia, with a ratio of 92 men to 100 women, is the only one with significantly more unmarried women than men.

Race and ethnicity play at least some role in these unequal distributions, said Mr. Wilcox, who helped produce “Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition: Twenty-Six Conclusions From the Social Sciences” in 2005.

Places with large minority populations are likely to show disparities because black men are at higher risk than men of other racial and ethnic groups for imprisonment and early death, he said.

As for areas where single men outnumber women, immigration and jobs are likely factors, he said. For instance, the West and Southwest have large numbers of predominately male Hispanic immigrants.

The West is a high-growth region with attractive jobs for men, said the Rev. Leo Godzich, founder and president of the National Association of Marriage Enhancement in Phoenix, which won a federal marriage grant last year.

All kinds of people come to the United States “to start their lives anew,” but it’s not at all surprising that there would be more single men than women, he said. “Usually when people start their lives over, single men are more adventurous,” he said. Single women are more likely to migrate to where they have family ties.

Dallas’ abundance of young single men could be a result of immigration as well as the city’s many technology jobs and good housing market, said Cosette Bowles, executive director of the Alliance for North Texas Healthy Effective Marriages (ANTHEM) in Dallas, another federal marriage grant winner.

Military bases are probably another factor — as well as the prisons, said Mrs. Bowles. “Dallas has a lot of prison re-entries and ex-offenders,” she said. They’re also one of ANTHEM’s target populations, as “we are hoping to make reintegration work better,” she said.

In Philadelphia, Larry Robertson is the director of field operations for Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America Inc., which won a federal marriage grant to run programs for teens. He said he hasn’t seen a shortage of young men in his programs, but agrees that male “marriageability” is a big topic with the women.

The first things single women want to know from the men they are seeing is, “Are you working? What do you do with your time? If you have a child, how much time do you spend with them?” said Mr. Robertson. These are tough issues for many men because they have been in trouble with the law and that has made it difficult for them to get jobs.

The lack of two-parent families is also a factor. “I’ve had young men from inner-city populations say, ‘Teach me how to be a husband because I haven’t seen one,’ ” said Mr. Godzich, who has a doctorate in divinity.

An area’s marriage culture can be deeply affected by the makeup of the singles population, said Mr. Wilcox. When single women outnumber single men, there will be many opportunities for men to take advantage of that — i.e., stay single and have multiple sex partners, he said. Marriage-minded young women in these areas should “hold out for a husband if they want to have kids,” he suggested.

Or they should move to an area where they are in the minority.

When single women are not so plentiful, they will have more opportunity to be choosy about their mates. This in turn will make men more receptive to marriage, especially once they have established themselves and are ready to settle down, Mr. Wilcox said.

“Generally speaking,” he added, “I would say for women who are marriage-minded — and this is not rocket science — it is to their advantage to be in an environment where there’s more men than women.”

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