A new study has found an inverse relationship between the availability of men in a given area and the number of women pursuing high-paying careers, and women who are judged least attractive were most likely to prioritize career before family when there is a shortage of men.
Researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio University of Minnesota said that the ratio of men to women dramatically alters the choices women make about career and family, and women men are scarce, women delay having children and opt to focus on obtaining the financial resources needed to fend for themselves and their future offspring.
These women tend to get married later, start families later and have fewer children than average, according to researchers.
"Most women don't realize it, but an important factor in a woman's career choice is how easy or difficult it is to find a husband," researcher Kristina Durante, assistant professor of marketing at the UTSA College of Business said in a statement. "When a woman's dating prospects look bleak – as is the case when there are few available men – she is much more likely to delay starting a family and instead seek a career."
Researchers analyzed the ratio of single men to single women in each U.S. state and found that as the percentage of bachelors decreased, the proportion of women in high-paying careers increased, according to the study.
Additionally, researchers found that when women in college are led to believe that there are fewer men than women on campus, female participants became more motivated to pursue ambitious careers rather than start a family.
“A scarcity of men leads women to invest in their careers because they realize it will be difficult to settle down and start a family,” co-author Vlad Griskevicius, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, said in a statement. “In fact, the strongest effects were found for women who are least likely to secure a mate.”
However, Durante noted that the irony was that it only gets more difficult for women to find husbands as they become more educated and earn higher salaries.
“This is because a woman’s mating standards keep increasing as she becomes more educated and wealthy, which further decreases the number of suitable mates," Durante said. “More than ever before, modern women are increasingly forced to make tough choices, such as choosing briefcase over baby.”
Furthermore, researchers found that women who judged themselves to be less attractive were most likely to choose a career path over family when there are less available men.
"Women who judged themselves to be less desirable to men—those women who are not like Angelina Jolie—were most likely to take the career path when men became scarce," added Durante.
The authors noted that a limitation of the study was that all participants were college-age women, and many of them have or at least perceive that they have the option to pursue a high-paying career as an alternative strategy to acquiring paternal investment for offspring.
However women living in other settings such as impoverished neighborhoods, rural villages in Asia or foraging societies around the world have do not has this “career” option may instead pursue alternative strategies like “forming closer intrasexual alliances or they may rely more heavily on extended kin for childrearing," the authors concluded.