Choosing career over family tied to lack of marriageable men

Sofi Papamarko
Shine On
April 18, 2012

Increasingly, women have been delaying starting a family in order to nurture their careers. But a recent study asks if this phenomenon might just be on account of a lack of marriageable men.

"Much research in animals shows that the ratio of males to females has large effects on animal behaviour," says researcher Vladas Griskevicius, assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. "Yet almost no research in humans has even considered whether sex ratio might affect human behaviour."

The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, looks at the ratios of single men versus single women in various U.S. states and on college campuses. When stores of single men are low, or are perceived to be low, women showed higher levels of motivation to pursue high-paying careers.

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The researchers conclude that it's not necessarily ambition that drives a woman to single-mindedly pursue her career — it's merely because there isn't a potential husband in sight.

"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," says Kristina Durante, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Texas in a statement. "When a woman's dating 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."

The researchers also note that women who perceive themselves to be less desirable as mates — "those women who are not like Angelina Jolie", as Durante puts it, are more likely to immerse themselves in their careers.

More than a few may take issue with these controversial conclusions. The troubling implication of this study being that home and family life is the be-all and end-all for  women and that the pleasures of building a career is merely a consolation prize if one is unable to land a husband.

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Not to mention the fact that perhaps in areas where single men are scarce there are fewer men overall in the population, and thus, fewer men in the workforce pursuing careers. The authors even acknowledge this important factor.

"As the number of men in the population decreases, more job opportunities become available for women," they write.

For all women, is a career just something to pass the time and fill lonely, otherwise meaningless hours? What about lesbians and women who are not particularly interested in marrying or ever having children?

"We don't know whether these effects would translate to lesbians. I suspect that they would not. As for the women who state that they have no desire to have children, I suspect that there are many who state this when they are younger but end up having children when they are older," says Griskevicius,

What do you think? Are careers merely a fall-back option for women who aren't able to marry and have children right away?

Check out the fun video below detailing the mistakes women make when dating.

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