The problems of dating

When there are plenty of marriageable men, dating culture emphasizes courtship and romance, and men generally must earn more to attract a wife.But when gender ratios skew toward women, as they do today among college grads, the dating culture becomes more sexualized.There’s a scene in “The Fires of Autumn,” Irene Nemirovsky’s novel set in 1920s France, in which a young war widow named Therese thinks she is being courted for marriage by her childhood friend Bernard — only to discover that he wants nothing more than a fling. I say “naively” because it’s not the first time some newfangled technology has been mistakenly blamed for young people having more sex. But the moralizers of Nemirovsky’s era fooled themselves into believing that the automobile was to blame for loosening sexual mores.He, in turn, is baffled by her unwillingness to carry on a casual affair. “A house of prostitution on wheels” was how one judge described it at the time.As I argue in “DATE-ONOMICS: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game,” the college and post-college hookup culture is a byproduct, not of Tinder or Facebook (another target of modern scolds), but of shifting demographics among the college-educated.Much as the death toll of WWI caused a shortage of marriageable men in the 1920s, today’s widening gender gap in college enrollment has created unequal numbers in the post-college dating pool.

California and Colorado, for example, each have 20 percent more college-grad women than men age 22 to 29 compared with 36 and 41 percent, respectively, in Illinois and North Carolina.

The dynamics, and numbers, shift when we expand the conversation from different-sex to same-sex dating.

Obviously the lesbian dating market is unaffected by how many men there are, just as the dating market for gay men is unaffected by how many women there are.

Indeed, there are 1.5 million more non-college-educated men than women among Americans age 22 to 29.

Bottom line: New York City women looking for a match would be better off, statistically at least, at a fireman’s bar in Staten Island than a wine bar on the Upper East Side.Given the shortage of young men in post-World War I Europe — 10 million soldiers died and 20 million were wounded, many grievously — Bernard wonders why any bachelor would want to settle down. Today’s hookup culture does have one big thing in common with the ’20s flapper generation, and that is demographics.

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