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

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. 31

    welcome to the cold world of dating in nyc, numbers aren’t everything, alot of people doesn’t mean sucess like you’d think it does. alot of people here aren’t exactly looking to settle down or meet their soul mates, its a transient city, hard to connect w/ people, you have to go beyond and above to meet people you want to be around. i find alot of men here have the ” can i do better mentality” shes good but really , can i get a 9 or a 10, alot people here don’t seem to be able to make a decision it can be done but you’d probably be better off looking for a mate in st. louis

  2. 32

    Again, move to toronto…big city, lots of good looking successful guys. I had a horrible time in NY, too much competition…Toronto has pretty girls, but the guys aren’t as picky as in new york..

  3. 33

    I personally think you should start looking elsewhere for a man.  Being sophisticated is overrated and not always the best option.  Simple, down to earth, salt of the earth men, who like the simple things in life and old fashioned, usually for the long term have a lot more to offer.  Three of my girlfriends left new York and went elsewhere.  One went to Houston, texas (an east indian girl) and met someone within 9 months of being there.  He courted her and they were engaged within two years and got married on the 3rd.  Now they have children.  One other girlfriend went to st. Petersburg, florida.  Met someone there as well.  And my other girlfriend moved to saint marten.  She is now seriously dating someone there and doesn’t plan to be back anytime soon.  Men in New York are good for a New York experience but don’t expect much more than that.  Keep your expectations realistic.  I personally think new York people think way too highly of themselves and at the end of the day, what really matters for a fruitful, healthy existence is a good wholesome person who can offer a good solid relationship.  Don’t waste too much time on the people that are running faster than life and missing out on whats important at the end of the day.  Accomplishments are nice but when you are older, those things don’t really matter at the end of the day.  You cant take your degrees to the grave with you.  Some New York women are opting to meet guys when they travel and bringing them back.  Men in New York are self absorbed and really don’t have much to offer.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Give yourself a timeline and make some major changes if you have to.   Like look elsewhere for a mate. Its always better to meet someone when you are young from your hometown or school.  When your 24 and over and single as a woman, you start bumping into the non crème of the crop, no matter how good their jobs are and degrees they have.  Just because you look good on paper doesn’t mean your fit for a relationship.

  4. 34

    I am the person who wrote this post nearly (10!) years ago.  It was so interesting to me to get an email that there was a new comment today. Currently I’m on vacation with my husband of 5 years and our 4 and 2 year olds.  I did ultimately meet a man in NYC, and a native at that.  Evan’s advice about chemistry are spot on.  On our first date (we met online) there were no sparks flying from my end but I did enjoy myself.  7 years later the chemistry is great and I have an ambitious yet devoted husband and a happy life in NYC.  Not that anyone needs to know all of this but I felt compelled to write it after being reminded of this time in my life!

    1. 34.1

      I’m delighted that you came back to give us an update, @Rachel.  I often wonder what happens to the people who write on this blog (both letter writers and Peanut Gallery commenters) and it’s gratifying to read about your eventual romantic success in New York.  Congratulations on what sounds like a happy marriage and family life!

    2. 34.2

      That’s great!  It’s good to read more positive stories on here.  Maybe your story will give other women hope that even in a tough dating market like NYC, it’s possible to find love.  I’ve never lived in NYC, only visited–but I imagine it would be a tough dating market.  Even the most beautiful girl I know in my area (who’s a model) looked downright average compared to taller, younger and thinner models I saw in NYC when I’ve visited.  It’s great that love is possible even in a tough dating market like that.

      On the flip side, I found my husband in suburbia in my mid-30s, where it seemed like everyone else in my area was already married!  As they say, you only need one.  It goes to show how love is possible even in the toughest circumstances.



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