It might sound like something out of the 1950s, but new research contends that a shortage of eligible bachelors for female college students is leading many women to invest more in their career than in their family.
That's the controversial finding of research conducted at the University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Minnesota, which suggests that when men are scarce, women postpone 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 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."
As part of the study, researchers examined the ratio of single men to single women across the country and found that as bachelors became scarce, the percentage of women in high-paying careers increased.
The researchers also studied women on college campuses, requiring them to read one of two news articles 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.
The researchers believe that’s because the women realize it will technically be difficult to find a husband, settle down and start a family.
"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," Durante said.
The research highlights a sexual paradox associated with women's economic and educational advancement, according to Durante.
"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," Durante said. "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.”
The study, "Sex Ratio and Women's Career Choice: Does a Scarcity of Men Lead Women to Choose Briefcase Over Baby?" was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.
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