Far out Friday: Why single men may be your most lucrative clients

New research is dragging up some interesting insights into how, why and when men spend - and the results may surprise you



The perception that women are scarce leads men to become impulsive, save less, and increase borrowing, according to new research from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

The school’s assistant professor of marketing, Vladas Griskevicius and the study’s lead auther, says that when females are scares among animals in the wild, males become more competitive – and the same is true for humans.

“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.”

To test their theory that the sex ratio affects economic decisions, the researchers had participants read news articles that described their local population as having more men or more women. They were then asked to indicate how much money they would save each month from a pay check, as well as how much they would borrow with credit cards for immediate expenditures.

#pb# When led to believe women were scarce, the savings rates for men decreased by a significant 42%. Men were also willing to borrow 84% more money each month.

According to Griskevicius, participants were unaware that sex ratios were having any effect on their behaviour.

“Economics tells us that humans make decisions by carefully thinking through our choices; that we’re not like animals. It turns out we have a lot in common with other animals. Some of our behaviours are much more reflexive and subconscious. We see that there are more men than women in our environment and it automatically changes our desires, our behaviours, and our entire psychology.”

On the other hand, the study found that sex ratios don’t influence the financial choices women make – but they do shape women’s expectations of how men should spend their money when courting.

#pb#  After reading a news article informing women that there are more men than women, women expected men to spend more on dinner dates, Valentine’s gifts, and engagement rings.

In addition to conducting laboratory experiments, the researchers reviewed archival data and calculated the sex ratios of more than 120 U.S. cities. Consistent with their hypothesis, communities with an abundance of single men showed greater ownership of credit cards and had higher debt levels.

One striking example was found in two communities located less than 100 miles apart. In Columbus, Georgia, where there are 1.18 single men for every single woman, the average consumer debt was $3,479 higher than it was in Macon, Georgia., where there were 0.78 single men for every woman.

Griskevicius says the research is, at this point, only scratching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to financial behaviour – but says there are implications of a more sinister element.

“One of the troubling implications of sex ratios for the world in general is that it’s about more than just money. It’s about violence and survival.”

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