Cities are not just labor markets: They’re mating markets. Single people don’t just move to cities for jobs or amenities, but for access to potential mates. Back in 2007, National Geographic published its infamous “Singles Map,” which showed which cities and metros had more single men or single women. It did so with a broad brush, looking at all singles ages 20 to 64. But women outlive men and the odds can shift in favor over time. More than a decade later, has the singles scene—and the odds of meeting that special someone—changed?
With the help of my colleague Karen King, a demographer at the University of Toronto’s School of Cities, we crunched the numbers for metros where men outnumber women and where women outnumber men, based on data from the 2017 American Community Survey. We looked into more than 380 metros and examined single adults—including those who have never been married, and those who are divorced, separated, or widowed. We looked at the broad ratio of single men to women for singles between 20 and 64 years of age. (We stopped at age 64 because the fact that women outlive men would badly skew the ratios.) Finally, we looked at ratios for three age groups: 20 to 34 years old, 35 to 44 years old, and 45 to 64 years old.
My CityLab colleague David Montgomery produced the graphics and maps. On the maps, the blue shading shows metros where there are more single men than women, and orange indicates metros where there are more single women than men.
In absolute numbers, heterosexual men have a considerable dating advantage in metros across the East Coast and South. New York City has more than 200,000 more single women than men; Atlanta 95,000 more; Washington, D.C. 63,000 more; Philadelphia nearly 60,000 more. The pattern continues for Baltimore and Miami. Meanwhile, the opposite is true out West, where the absolute numbers favor heterosexual single women. San Diego has more than 50,000 more single men than women; Seattle has 46,000 more; San Jose has 37,000 more; Phoenix 32,000 more. The pattern is similar for Denver and San Francisco.
But, these large numbers simply reflect the large size of these metros. The picture becomes more accurate when we look at the ratio of single women to men (we do so per 1,000 single men). As the map shows, orange indicates metros where there are more single women, mostly across the East Coast, down the coast into the South, and in parts of the Rust Belt. And note the blue areas on the map which show metros that are mostly male, especially prevalent out West.
Overall, more than 60 percent of metros (234 metros) lean male, and about a third (136) lean female. There are a dozen metros where the odds are more or less even.
Among large metros (with more than one million people), tech-driven San Jose has the smallest ratio of single women to men (868 per 1,000). But across all metros, the geography is more varied. Jacksonville, North Carolina; Hanford-Corcoran, California; The Villages, Florida (a retirement community); and the Watertown-Fort Drum, New York all have ratios of 500-600 single women to 1,000 single men.
The large metros that have more single women than men sit in the South: Memphis, Atlanta, and Birmingham all have slightly more than 1,100 single women to 1,000 single men. When we consider all metros, Southern metros still rank at the top, but the towns are much smaller. Places like Florence, South Carolina; Greenville, North Carolina; and Laredo, Texas are where single women outnumber single men by 1,200 to 1,000.
The pattern becomes even more interesting when we chart the geography of singles in different age groups.
The map above charts the ratios for those 20 to 34 years old—key years for dating—searching for long-term partners, and starting a family. The map is a veritable sea of blue. Now, the odds favor of heterosexual single women almost everywhere across the country. The tides have quickly shifted in places like New York City: When considering all age groups, there are more single women—but when looking at just those 20 to 34, there are more single men. In fact, 95 percent of metros (362) across the country have more young single men than young single women.
There are only 13 metros across the entire country where the ratio of single women in the 20-to-34 age group exceeds that of men; and in just seven more they are roughly even. All of the metros where there are more young single women are small metros in the South, like Greenville, North Carolina; Florence, South Carolina; Macon-Bibb County, Georgia; Burlington, North Carolina; and Brunswick, Georgia, all of which have no more than 1,100 young single women for 1,000 young single men.
The odds start to change as we age. As the map above shows, the odds start to tilt back in favor of men when we look at singles between the ages of 35 and 44. In this age group, there are more single women in more than 40 percent of metros (164). Among large metros, Raleigh, Atlanta, and Birmingham are particularly attractive for heterosexual men, with between 1,100 and 1,200 single women to 1,000 single men. And there are more single men of this age group in just over half (54 percent) of metros (206). The large metros are San Jose, Seattle, and Las Vegas, which all have around 900 single women per 1,000 single men.
The map for singles aged 45 to 64 shows the odds shifting sharply, simply because women tend to outlive men. The map is almost entirely orange: By this age, single men have the advantage in most metros across the country.
Across the nation, almost 90 percent of metros (340) are majority single women in this age group. In absolute numbers, New York City has more than 300,000 more single women than men between the ages of 45 and 64; Los Angeles has 140,000 or so; Chicago more than 90,000; and Washington, D.C., 85,000. There are just 37 metros across the entire country where there are more single men in this age group, and another five where the odds are more or less even.
The last graph summarizes the overall pattern. For young singles ages 20 to 34, there are more metros with more single men than women. But as we age, single life starts to skew more toward men. By ages 35 to 44, the odds for men and women across metros are essentially even. But, by the time we reach 45 to 64 years of age, many more metros have a greater share of single women than single men.
Of course, this analysis does not account for factors that often influence our mating life. We don’t know the sexual orientation of these singles—a huge factor—nor does our analysis account for education, race, or ethnicity; or those people who are in relationships but not yet married.
Still, our analysis and maps provide a broad look across the country where sheer the odds ratios favor single men or women—something that might just come in handy for those looking for love this Valentine’s Day.
CityLab editorial fellow Claire Tran contributed research and editorial assistance to this article.
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