Men Spend the Big Bucks When Women Are Scarce

A recent study finds that when men perceive that there are few women, they’ll spend more money.

Across the animal kingdom, males are competitive when females are scarce. Now a study with people has examined how the number of women affects men’s attitudes about a marker for competitive fitness: Money. Basically, the fewer the women, the more the men threw their money around. The research is in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Study subjects read prepared articles that described their local population as being predominantly male or being half male-half female. Then they were asked how much money they’d save and how much they’d spend using credit cards each month. When the men believed there were fewer women, they predicted they’d save 42 percent less money and were willing to spend 84 percent more on credit cards than when the sexes were at equal numbers.

Participants also looked at photos of groups where the gender ratios were either varied or balanced. Men who were led to believe that women were scarce were more likely to take a $20 gift today than wait for $30 in a month.

Population data supports the experimental findings: In communities with few single women, single men have more credit cards and owe more money. They clearly think that if you wanna play, you gotta pay.

An abstract from article..

The ratio of males to females in a population is an important factor in determining behavior in animals. We propose that sex ratio also has pervasive effects in humans, such as by influencing economic decisions. Using both historical data and experiments, we examined how sex ratio influences saving, borrowing, and spending in the United States. Findings show that male-biased sex ratios (an abundance of men) lead men to discount the future and desire immediate rewards. Male-biased sex ratios decreased men’s desire to save for the future and increased their willingness to incur debt for immediate expenditures. Sex ratio appears to influence behavior by increasing the intensity of same-sex competition for mates. Accordingly, a scarcity of women led people to expect men to spend more money during courtship, such as by paying more for engagement rings. These findings demonstrate experimentally that sex ratio influences human decision making in ways consistent with evolutionary biological theory. Implications for sex ratio effects across cultures are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2011 APA, all rights reserved)

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