THE BLOG
06/17/2013 08:46 am ET | Updated Aug 17, 2013

Washington, D.C.: It's a Small Town for Dating

Rachel Ryan is absolutely right to say that D.C.'s dating scene is full of people who have exceptional resumes. And she's also right that this doesn't always lead to easy love connections. But I think she overlooks something too: D.C. is actually a very small town particularly when it comes to dating. I'm married and have been off the dating scene for nearly a decade now myself. But, when I was looking, the numbers weren't very much in my favor.

Of course, it doesn't seem this way at first blush. The city has about 625,000 people -- that's a lot. In the city proper, furthermore, 52 percent of people aren't single and childless. This leaves about 300,000 people who might be dateable. But about 10 percent of that population is gay (the highest percentage in the country), which leaves only 270,000 people in the heterosexual dating pool. Of this number, about 75,000 are currently enrolled college students who will tend to date within their own campuses. That leaves about 195,000 singles not in college.

Extrapolating from national numbers, about 30 percent of this group is over forty, leaving about 136,000 people who could be considered "young." Social circles are built in such a way that few people with college degrees will even meet (much less be interested in dating) people who don't have them. While degree attainment is higher for young, single people than the population as a whole, it's probably not above than 70 percent even in D.C.

This would, very generously, leave about 90,000 college graduates between 21 and 40 in the District of Columbia. D.C. attracts more women than men, however, so only about 47 percent of these people are male, which leaves about 42,000 people for a young, childless, heterosexual, single college woman to date. A fair number people will prefer to date someone of the same ethnic/racial background and more will consider religion an absolute deal-breaker. Age also matters: few 22-year olds will date 39-year-olds. Many people who are single and live alone, furthermore, are dating someone seriously at any given time -- about half, according to most surveys.

This results in dating pools that aren't enormous. A single, heterosexual, 27-year-old white man with a bachelor's degree who wants to date a single, white, college-educated woman between 25 and 29 would actually have only about 7,000 choices in D.C. -- about the same number he would find on the campus of a big public university in a flyover state. If he has some other preferences (say, he's average height for a man and prefers to date someone shorter) or considers religious/political compatibility a must, the list would grow shorter still. And this is a pretty easy case. For example, there are likely fewer than 800 single, straight, Asian, college educated men between 25 and 29 who live in the District.

Sometimes the pools can be very, very small: I had a Jewish, conservative, gay woman intern for me at one job and later hired another woman who I found out had the same characteristics. I later learned out the two had been out on a date together independently of me. Likewise, when one friend of mine wrote an article about polyamory in area, I realized I had once been out on a date with the subject of the article. (Did she have another boyfriend at the time? I dunno.)

Of course, it's easy to overstate things: D.C.'s suburbs, which stretch all the way into West Virginia, have 90 percent of the area's population and there are even more people if one includes Baltimore and its suburbs as a component of the dating pool. The Internet, Skype, and inexpensive air travel also make it much easier to maintain long distance relationships than ever before.

But, when it comes to dating, D.C. is, in many ways, a pretty small town.