April 24, 2012 11:59 am

Less men forces women to choose their careers over marriage: study


TORONTO – See a successful woman with a master’s degree and a high-paying job? She probably focused on her career because she couldn’t find a man to settle down with, American researchers say in a new study that analyzed population patterns across the United States.

The controversial idea that women can’t have it all is resurfacing in a University of Texas and University of Minnesota report that says a scarcity of men forces women to pick up the briefcase instead of making time for getting married and starting a family.

Currently, American women make up 57 per cent of all bachelor’s degree graduates and 60 per cent of all master’s degrees in the country. The researchers say they wanted to study potential “consequences” of having more women than men in post-secondary schools.

In one study, they compared the ratio of single men to single women in each U.S. state and in Washington, D.C. As the population of bachelors decreased, the percentage of women in high-paying careers spiked. In these pockets of America, women had babies later in life and had fewer kids.

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“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. 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,” Kristina Durante, a marketing professor at the University of Texas, said in a statement.

She said a scarcity of men forces women to put in more time at their jobs because they “realize it will be difficult” to settle down when they’re ready. It may be a survival instinct – if a male partner isn’t around for financial support, women might turn to sharpening their own skills to create their own opportunities.

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A second study conducted on college campuses had researchers convince women they outnumbered the male population at school. Participants read a few news articles about the student population that pointed to fewer men on campus – results showed that after reading the excerpts, women were more motivated to stay focused on their careers.

Durante’s findings were more distinct if women thought they’d have trouble securing a long-term partner.

She says her findings, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology last week, reminds readers of the paradox women face if they pursue careers. It’s a vicious cycle – as ambitious women get more education and better careers, they have a harder time finding a husband.

“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. More than ever before, modern women are increasingly forced to make tough choices, such as choosing briefcase over baby.”

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