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Is the Gender Ratio in Your Town Making You Broke?

Researchers find men's spending gets looser when women get scarcer.

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Chris Rock once said, "When you meet somebody for the first time, you're not meeting them. You're meeting their representative." And according to a study, men might put their money where their pride is when they're trying to impress a woman.

Professor Vladas Griskevicius at the University of Minnesota wanted to see if human males, like other animals, stepped up their competitive game when women were scarce. "What we see in other animals is that when females are scarce, males become more competitive. They compete more for access to mates," he said.

Curious to see how human men would manifest this competitive instinct (if they did at all), he had several volunteers read articles and look at photos that suggested the population was more male than female or the male-to-female ratio was equal. He then asked them questions about their projected spending habits. When the men were lead to believe that there were more men than women, they said they would save 42 percent less money and were willing to spend 84 percent more on credit cards per month than when they thought the sex ratio was equal.

After looking at photos where there were more men than women, participants also were more willing to take an instant $20 payoff than wait a month and get $30.

"Findings show that male-biased sex ratios (an abundance of men) lead men to discount the future and desire immediate rewards," Griskevicius wrote. He concluded, "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."

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