In the great tradition of "No Scrubs," "Single Ladies" and "Gold Digger," The University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management has found scientific "proof" to support what rappers and recording artists have been trying to tell us for a long time: When men compete for women, money and status are key.
The new study, titled "The Financial Consequences of Too Many Men: Sex Ratio Effects on Savings, Borrowing, and Spending" was published in the January 2012 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. It found that the competition for access to mates isn't limited to the animal kingdom -- though it is uniquely human for males to spend more and wrack up credit card debt to compete for female attention.
In the study, 205 participants were given news articles describing their local population as either short on women or short on men, then asked asked how much money they planned to save from their paychecks and how much they'd charge on credit cards. When women were in short supply, the authors found men's intended saving rates decreased by a whopping 42 percent and the amount they'd charge went up by 84 percent!
Lead author Vladas Griskevicius wrote in a press release that men compete for access to mates through "money, through status and through products." And women, it seems, are aware of how men compete: while women in the study didn't alter their reported spending habits based on the ratio of women to men, they did adjust their expectations, expecting men to spend more on them after hearing their gender was in short supply. Just what types of things did they expect men to pay more for? Engagement rings and Valentine's Day gifts, to name a few.
The researchers seem to have done their homework, reviewing spending data and sex ratios for over 120 American cities and finding that, as they suspected, cities with more single men had more credit cards and more debt. Case in point: In Columbus, Georgia, where there are 1.18 single men for every single woman, the average consumer debt is $3,479 higher than in Macon, Georgia -- a town 100 miles away where there were 0.78 single men for every woman.
In light of these findings, Jezebel asked, could "sex ratio be a new economic indicator"? Like nail polish and lipstick before it, this study seems to add to the impression that Americans adhere to spending stereotypes when times are tough. Surges in lipstick and nail polish sales during a recession show us that women will have their retail therapy -- even if they have to settle for lipstick over a dress -- and now, this study affirms that men will spend to impress (and charge it if they can't afford it, even in a recession).
Personally, I'd love to find an economic indicator that doesn't suggest that women are from Sephora, men are from Visa. Until then, I'll be looking for a position in diamond sales in Columbus.