Is it Harder for Women To Date In New York City Than Anywhere Else?

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Dear Evan,

I am a 28 year-old single woman living in Manhattan. I’ve lived here about a year and a half – I moved here to pursue my PhD and am about halfway done. Although life in NYC has treated me very well so far in many areas, and I am really enjoying my time here, I have really been striking out dating-wise. Before moving here, I was a preschool teacher in St. Louis and always had a lot of success dating, whether with people I met online or otherwise. I had a couple long-term relationships and some more casual relationships, all with smart, interesting, good-looking men.

The story here has been completely different. Online, I am rarely contacted, and of the dates I have been on I haven’t once been asked out on a second date, which rarely happened to me before. Admittedly, there were not sparks flying on any of my first dates, but a couple of them were certainly guys I would have liked to get to know better and would have gladly gone had they asked me out again. I have also tried initiating (many) emails myself and I have yet to have a guy respond to an email that I have initiated.

So, I am starting to wonder, what is going on here?? Is this simply a case of too many options? Am I not as attractive/interesting against the competition here as I was in St. Louis? Or is there something about being back in school or being from the Midwest that is unappealing? I am overall a pretty secure person, but my confidence is starting to waver, which I KNOW is not attractive. What can I do to change my luck???


Dear Rachel,

Your timing couldn’t be better, as a recent book discusses this very issue. There are 210,000 more single women than single men in the New York metropolitan area. This makes it a buyer’s market for men, and super-competitive for women.

There are 210,000 more single women than single men in the New York metropolitan area. This makes it a buyer’s market for men, and super-competitive for women.

The opposite trend takes place on the West Coast, where there are considerably more single men than women. This makes sense in a place like Silicon Valley, but I was surprised that my adopted hometown of Los Angeles was so skewed, with nearly 90,000 more single men. Then, when I thought about it, it clicked. The entertainment industry is at the heart of this place, and it takes a long time to establish oneself. Due to this career instability, men are far less likely to get married at a young age. Unlike the finance guys in New York who are set by the time they’re 30, LA men struggle deep into their 30’s. Factor in the number of beautiful women in LA, the shallow nature of men, and the flaky nature of the town, and yeah, it’s no surprise that men stay single a lot longer out here….

How does this pertain to you, Rachel? Well, you touched upon it when mentioning the “competition”. Simply put, there is not only a lot more competition when it comes to volume, but the quality of women in New York is pretty astounding. This is not to slander women of any other city or state, but when you go to Manhattan, it’s filled to the brim with go-getter women who are pursuing their dreams in the toughest city on earth. Ivy Leaguers, models, finance minds, ad execs — NYC is filled with women who have impressive credentials. Now you know and I know that impressive credentials don’t necessarily make a mate, but it does capture male attention. They also run in the same circles. So you’ve got a lot of alpha females who crave their Mr. Bigs, even though their Mr. Bigs are players. And lots of quality women are left on the outside looking in.

You’ve got a lot of alpha females who crave their Mr. Bigs, even though their Mr. Bigs are players. And lots of quality women are left on the outside looking in.

In cities like New York and Los Angeles — the only two cities in which I’ve lived as an adult — there is more choice for mates. On one hand, having all these options can be considered good. On the other hand, making a decision to settle down can be almost paralyzing. Barry Schwartz covers this extremely well in “The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less”. But when we feel that we can always trade up — younger, cuter, smarter, taller, richer, etc — we often do. If we live in a small town and don’t want to move, we are choosing from a much smaller pool of applicants. Which is why the average age of marriage is much lower in rural areas. Dare I say, it’s a simpler, happier life — not burdened with the backbreaking criteria imposed by the big-city intelligentsia.

I’m speaking broadly, Rachel, as this issue applies to lots of people outside your current circumstance. Here’s how this pertains directly to you.

Is this simply a case of too many options? Yes. The numbers bear this out. To compare different age groups – it’s no different from the fact that there are three times more single women than single men over the age of 65. Factor in that a certain percentage of those men aren’t looking for love, a certain percentage are infirm, and a certain percentage only want to date younger women, it’s really tough for an older women to find love. Things are brighter for a young woman, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Especially in a city like New York or LA.

Am I not as attractive/interesting against the competition here as I was in St. Louis? Probably. Harvard gets 26,000 applicants for 1500 slots. That means that there are valedictorians getting turned down left and right. Thankfully, there are more men than colleges. But make no mistake: nobody wants to go to her safety school, and that’s often what happens in life. We hold out for Ivy League or bust and are surprised when we are left without a freshman dorm.

Or is there something about being back in school or being from the Midwest that is unappealing? Maybe. I think there’s a definite New York type. Smart. Direct. Ambitious. Quick. Abrasive. Witty. You may not fit in the mainstream, although it’s probably not the biggest factor.

What can I do to change my luck??? You’re getting your PhD. That takes you out of circulation considerably. Depending on what you’re studying and where, you may never encounter eligible men in your daily life. Still, there’s no city like New York for meeting people randomly. And that’s where you need to hold up the mirror to figure out what’s not working. But if nobody you write to online is responding, that tells me three things: 1) your photos aren’t acquitting you well, 2) your essays don’t say anything original, and 3) you’re overshooting and writing only to the most desirable men. So if you’re gonna change your luck, get new photos and new essays here, and then do a search of women in your area. Check out the competition from 23-33. If that doesn’t illustrate just how tough it is to stand out in the world’s most competitive dating market, I don’t know what will.

Good luck.

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  1. 1

    Man, that is ALMOST enough to get me to move to New York. ALMOST! Hey Evan, any stats on Burlington, VT? 🙂

  2. 2

    I think changing up your profile and widening your net are probably the best things to do. I was on Match for four years and changed my profile and pics regularly…I live in a smaller town right now, and so the pool didn’t change much. That meant if a guy never changed his profile, he was less likely to come up in my search. And even if I widened my search, a guy with a profile that I didn’t find appealing was going to remain unappealing if he never changed his essays.

  3. 3

    Evan, may I ask where you obtained those single men/women statistics? Are there numbers for other cities? In terms of the overall population, things are almost even, so it would be interesting to see how those numbers bear out by age demographic. This presents an interesting contrast to China, where age-old preferences for male heirs, decades of a one child policy, and possibly other factors have led to a significant surplus of men. In fact, the ratio as of 2006 was 1.13 men/women, compared to the world average, which is 1.01 (United States 0.97, with 1.00 if you only consider people aged 15-65). There is a ton of data here:

  4. 4

    If you’ve mentioned it in your profile, you may want to consider removing the fact that you’re going for your PHD. Many guys may be intimidated by that. I would find it a huge turn on, but I think others may think you’re too smart for them, or see you as some kind of mousy bookworm….especially if your picture isn’t doing you justice. I don’t think the pool in NY is that much less shallow than it is in L.A.

    As far as NYC being filled with women who have impressive credentials, it’s also filled with women who are extremely unimpressive (I’ve dated most of them. You can read all about it, if you like: ). The number of unimpressive women’s profiles on dating sites is astounding too. And I ONLY search in NY.

    I’d say follow Evan’s advice about working on the profile, but don’t be intimidated by the fantasy of the successful, ambitious “Sex and the City” NY women because it’s quite often just that…a fantasy.

    Best of luck.

  5. 5

    I see Marc’s point though I go back and forth on whether or not I agree. When I was dating online my profile said that I was getting a PhD, but I made the most of it and my headline was “Hot Bookworm.” However, when I encounter people in daily life I tend to just say I’m in school and when they ask me what I study I say the name, not the degree, because lots of times people get intimidated and/or conversation becomes awkward. So that’s a possible compromise.

    OTOH, if you want to find someone similarly educated (as I did) then putting it out there is an effective screening tool. Good luck!

  6. 6

    Okay, it is the year 2008. Some guys are smart and secure. The question I would ask myself when seeing Rachel’s profile is

    “Do PhD students have time for dating and boyfriends?”

  7. 7

    Steve, I think it’s a good question. And my response, as the person who wrote the letter, is yes. I certainly make time for other priorities in my life, personal relationships being one of them. But I can completely understand the concern. I do think, however, living in NYC works in my favor on this one. Everyone is super busy and into their careers, so my hours probably seem leisurely to many other online daters. The mantra on people’s profiles in NYC seems to be “I work hard and I play hard!” (And no, I didn’t write this on mine!)

  8. 8

    I may help shed some light on Rachel’s issue.

    I am originally from St. Louis as well, then I moved to LA (not NY, but obviously, but the analagy is similar given it was a move to a huge market from the midwest).

    I have told many people back in St. Louis this – you see more attractive women in LA in one day than you would in STL in about a month.

    Does this mean there aren’t attractive women in STL? Of course not. There are. But, like in LA, in NY, there’s more of everything – including attractive women, so the competition would be greater.

    Another thing that might pertain to Rachel. She doesn’t say if she was reared in STL, but I take it from her letter that she probably was. When I moved to LA, there were certain things that gave away the fact that I was from a different culture (part of the country in this case) – and make no mistake, STL is a vastly different culture than LA or NY.

    People in St. Louis are down to earth, salt of the earth, generally very parochia, and often unsofisticated.

    I am going to wager that East Coast men – which (gasp, I’d hate to say it) are generally more sophisticated that St. Louisans, are picking up that Rachel is slightly different than most New Yorkers they meet. Some may like that – a “small town girl” (New Yorkers think St. Louis is the sticks and that everyone there is raised on a farm). OThers may hold that against her (she ain’t one of us).

    Now, if that is what is going on here, then the right men will still like her. But, you can’t grow up in St. Louis, go on a date with a New Yorker, and not have them pick up that you’re different than most gals they meet. St. Louis is like a big small town. The cultures and the dialect are different.

    That might help explain what could be going on with Rachel’s hard luck on NY dates, but it wouldn’t explain the problems she’s having with her online dating attempts. That could come down to listing a PhD, listing that you’re originally from St. Louis (some East Coasters might think they’d be dating a farm girl), or your photo.

    When I moved to LA, I got lots of interest from the local ladies based on my looks. But, no doubt, once they met me, they knew I wasn’t Joe Surfer or the Sunset Strip Stud. Some probably held that against me.

    If you’re reading this Rachel, be yourself, don’t downgrade your intelligence, and let the chips fall where they may. Get your PhD, get out of NY, and come back to St. Louis where, while not as exciting, is a better pond for you dating-wise.

    St. Louis is a much better place to raise a family, anyway. Live it up there, enjoy your time, have as much fun as you can, and when you’ve had your kids, you can talk about your single days in New York City.

    Lotsa luck !

  9. 9

    Sorry for the typos on my post – I was working on two things at once.

  10. 10

    Evan you are WRONG about the ratio of men to women. The number you site is from the most recent census that includes women ages 18 – 80. so yeah, of course, women over 65 are more likely going to be widowed. The previous census in 2000 breaks the figures down by age group and actually shows even numbers for single and divorced/widowed people living in Manhattan (actually men slightly outnumber women in the 25-45 categories).

    I really hate these sensationalist headlines that are designed to shock women into thinking we’re all a doomed and create a negative vibe. “oh we should settle” or ‘women over 40 have a greater chance of blah blah” One dating blogger actually said that there are ‘2 women for every man in NYC’ – huh?

    Truth is, people DO meet and get married in NYC. I lived on the west coast for a while and it was tough out there but for differnt reasons (flakey guys, potheads, no sense of intellect). I’ve actually had better luck living in NY than anywhere else – I just make it happen for myself, get involved with things I do. I hear the same sob stories and dating drama from my friends in other cities; you just hear about NYC more because there are more people living here, and the publicity from Sex & the City-type of shows.

  11. 11
    Evan Marc Katz

    Good for you for making things happen, Downtown.

    Two corrections:

    The ages of singles in the study were 20-64, which leaves out most widows.

    I wasn’t WRONG. I was citing the same exact article as thousands of mainstream media outlets.


  12. 12
    Sarah G

    I live in NYC and I must say that I find others’ impressions of my fantastic city amusing. The one thing that no one seems to comment on is that NYC is very diverse–you find people who are provincial thinkers with lousy grammar and then you find some of the most creative, intelligent, informed people on the planet here. And these two types will be riding the subway together. I know women who are models, bankers, filmmakers, stay-at-home moms, economists, musicians, grade school teachers, doctors, dentists, and even one scientist. You can’t make a general statement about “women in NY” that covers any of them, and certainly not all of them. So these broad statements about the NYC demographics don’t persuade me. It isn’t like you’re going to be “competing” with a single mom from one of the outer boroughs, but she’s factored into the NY guy/gal ratio, too. And unless you are traveling in certain circles, you aren’t going to be “competing” with the fashion models, either. There are 8 million people on the streets of Manhattan in any given day — you are going to see attractive people (which might be who the guys remember), and you are going to see a whole heck of a lot of average people, and you are going to see some unattractive people. We are not a homogenous bunch.

    Getting a PhD is a fantastic thing, and congratulations on your achievement. Any guy who is going to be intimidated in a bad way by that isn’t for you. It’s not like you can hide the fact that you spent all that time in school and (once you are out) have the job to show for it. Every PhD I know (and I know tons) has a life partner, and each one of them is with someone at their same level of education/ability/intelligence. I have noticed that most of them didn’t meet in grad school, though some did. It isn’t unusual for people to delay marriage until after grad school — I’m not sure why that is, but I have observed it — and you’ll find a lot of guys in that situation, too. I’m curious that you aren’t finding guys at school to go out with — there are all sorts of fraternizing activities at your school, I’m sure, and some arranged with other schools. Also, if you’re at Columbia, Juilliard, or any of the Ivies or Ivy equivalents (don’t ask me to define that), there are dating sites just for graduates from those schools. You might find like minds through those sites. I used to feel inadequate with some of my friends b/c I only have a masters and not a PhD — so please realize that there are guys who will want that in their mate.

    How to find them? Maybe through more targeted searches on the sites, maybe through events geared toward people who resonate on the same wave length, maybe through social networking sites about things other than dating, maybe through the alumni office of your undergrad institution. Or maybe through chance — there are a lot of cute guys from the Midwest here in NYC!

  13. 13

    downtowngal May 1st 2008 at 06:33 pm 10
    I just make it happen for myself, get involved with things I do. I hear the same sob stories and dating drama from my friends in other cities;

    I think single people ( myself included ) complain more about being single than actually doing something about it. Ask any person who is complaining about it being hard meeting people how many times s/he went out last month and how many people s/he introduced themselves too.

  14. 14

    All of this talk about New York City is making me hear my mother’s old Frank Sinatra records in my head and is getting me enthused for a road trip.

    New York City sounds like such a cool place to be, but it is a tough city. I know it would eat me alive. Like the Sinatra sound goes

    ” – if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere….”

  15. 15

    While I think it’s great that people are using concrete numbers to support their arguments, it doesn’t do much good to mention studies without giving an exact reference. If it’s really true that, for example, men in LA take longer to settle down, then that should be reflected by a narrowing gap between single men and women with age. I think some pretty plausible explanations have been presented, but without numbers with verifiable sources to back them out, they’re merely speculation.

  16. 16

    Well I sympathize with Rachel. I’m a few years older than her (4 to be precise) and find that I’m also lost in the shuffle of the “trading up for someone younger, hotter, thinner” dating scene in NYC. And frankly the standards in NYC and other major cities, are really really unrealistic. I consider myself a solid 7 in the looks department and it may sound lame of me, but I am a great catch if I’m given a chance. That is the hard part, getting guys to notice me, a woman who is appearance wise basically a dime a dozen woman on the streets of New York. I suspect Rachel may fall into this category as well.

    I’m so over online dating and the bar scene. So what’s a better than average, but still a dime a dozen girl to do? I joined groups and clubs (some for singles and some for platonic). I think that dime a dozen girls stand out more in a smaller social environment where guys aren’t presented with many many options (like online dating and bars) especially with those knockout girls that guys flock to!!!

    I personally would recommend not putting all your efforts into online dating in NYC. And yes I did look a the competition. I was floored at what I was up against. They REALLY WERE hotter, younger, thinner, and with bigger breasts.

    I’d say join some groups, volunteer, do some outdoorsy/sports things now that the weather is getting warmer. And when you do these things, do things you like…..then if you do meet a guy it will just be a bonus!

  17. 17

    Sorry Evan, but I still think that lumping people ages 20-64 together is inappropriate, as women in their 20’s, for example, are looking for a different demographic than those who are 50+.

    Just because this stat is quoted in mainstream media doesn’t mean it reflects the true reality of dating. My point is that previous census data break the age groups down further and are therefore more telling. By highlighting that there are more single women than men as a theme for why it’s so difficult in NY distorts the picture.

    Anyone who has worked with numbers will tell you how they can be taken out of context. If your goal is to offer helpful advice then providing a skewed picture really does a disservice.

  18. 18

    Evan, I’d also like to add that I have a master’s degree in statistics and used to work for a market research firm where we studied demographic trends. We found that often times media soundbites are just that – and are used to grab headlines.

  19. 19

    I’d hate to say it for those New Yorkers out there, but I am surprised by those saying New York women are all that hot. I’ve got eyes, folks and discriminating eyes at that. NY women are not all that hotter than other places.

    Hottest of all – South Beach area on a Friday or Saturday night. Southern Cal also kicks NY’s butt in this dept.

    Chicago has it’s share of attractive women, but pales in comparison with South Beach and SoCal.

    NY does have some attractive women, but you guys are overstating it IMO.

    And yes, I’ve spent enough time there to know.

    Don’t mean to offend anyone – NYC is still one of the best cities in the world.

  20. 20

    Well, I just did a quick online search for women aged 21-39 on Yahoo personals, photos only, and physiques that were slim, fit, etc. only.

    Few “hot” women come up in the online listings. Maybe they go to other online sites.

    I think some of you gals are probably selling yourself short and giving other women in your area too much credit.

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