Sex Ratio In Economics

If you want men to open their wallets, make them think there aren’t a lot of women around.

The University of Minnesota recently released a study showing that when potential mates are scarce men will behave more aggressively with their money.

Researchers had participants read articles that described the local population as male-dominated.  Then, participants decided how much money they would save, and how much they would borrow using credit cards for immediate spending.

The savings rate plummeted 42% for men who believed women to be scarce.  These same men indicated that they would borrow 84% more money each month than their counterparts who did not perceive gender inequities.

In a related study, participants examined photos with varying gender ratios.  Some assortments had more men than women, others had more women than men, and a third group had a balanced sex ratio.  Participants then choose between receiving $20 immediately or $30 in a month.

Pictures with just a few women prompted the men to opt for the fast cash rather than wait a month for a higher return.

Women’s financial decisions do not appear to be impacted by sex ratios.  Their expectations, however, change.  In a predominantly male environment, both men and women expected men would need to spend more on mating efforts.

Researchers also calculated the sex ratios and evaluated debt levels of more than 120 U.S. cities.  Predominantly male communities had more credit cards and higher debt levels than those with balanced sex ratios.

For example, in Columbus, Ga., there are 1.18 single men for every single woman.   Consumer debt averaged $3,479 higher in Columbus than in Macon, Ga., where there were 0.78 single men for every woman.  Macon is less than 100 miles from Columbus.

Could the reverse be true?

If men perceive potential mates to be plentiful, would they save more and take on less debt?  Could the fact that women live longer than men subconsciously suggest to men that spending levels can taper off in later years because they may live in predominantly female retirement communities?

Source: January 2012 University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management Study, “How do humans compete for access to mates? What you find across cultures is that men often do it through money, through status and through products.”

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