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How to Find Your Niche in the Dating Market

by Rune Adal

“Sell when you can: you are not for all markets”

William Shakespeare, As You Like It

Reader iamthepinkylifter recently left a comment describing her different success rates with men in different geographical markets:
i’m an east-coaster who has *dramatically* better luck with men in/from California.
latin-american men LOVE me. they always have – ever since guys started noticing me, the majority of attention directed my way has been from men who are partly or entirely hispanic, USA-born and not.
this has been mostly excellent because i happen to find latin men incredibly theory as to why my luck is so much better in California is that there are many, many more latin men there – especially with similar educational and socioeconomic backgrounds to mine – than there are here in the northeast, where my peers are mostly white guys who aren’t really interested in dating someone like me, a girl who is…off-white.
This is similar to my own experience as a young woman. I grew up in LA, where long, leggy blondes with lustrous hair were every young guy’s dream. As a short, freckled, curvy brunette I didn’t get much play. So imagine my surprise when I moved East in my 20s and found that everybody was trying to be my baby.


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I figured it was a fluke, but when I moved back to LA a few years later, I was chopped liver again!

There is no universal standard for attraction in the dating market because a variety of local conditions create micro markets. They include the sex ratio, other demographics, the local economy, race, religion, politics, education and even natural resources.

Sex Ratio

Looking at the U.S. by local sex ratios explains some things about why dating may be easy or difficult in certain locales. One study looked at the Operational Sex Ratio:

OSR = #sexually active males/#sexually receptive females

Not surprisingly, the study concludes that it’s a simple case of supply vs. demand:

When the OSR is male biased, available men outnumber available women and the greater degree of female choice will increase the male social status and resource potential necessary for securing female partners. A larger number of available males leads to an increase in female marital rates, and with greater bargaining power, women can secure mates with higher SES, higher fidelity, and a greater willingness to invest in offspring.

Conversely, in an environment where the OSR is female biased, males tend to pursue short-term mating as long as possible. The lower intrasexual competition associated with a relative shortage of male competitors allows them to decrease resource expenditures and avoid marital commitments. Males can continue short-term mating strategies much longer than in a less female biased population. The female biased OSR has been linked to increased divorce rates, family conflict, out-of-wedlock births, and violent crimes.

Yikes, let’s hear it for male biased OSRs!

One notorious case of the female biased OSR is NYC. It’s no joke that women are generally miserable dating there. 

On the other hand, San Francisco has one of the highest OSRs in the country at 108, but the odds of a straight woman finding a high quality mate are much lower than that ratio implies.



Research has shown that not feeling ready financially is the single largest factor inhibiting marriage among cohabiting couples in the U.S. today.

Fewer men are attending college. In related news, a record number of 20-somethings are living at home with their parents. Young college graduates are often crippled by student debt.

In NYC, despite all those single men, young women earn 117% of what young men earn.

A sluggish economy is a major stressor – you don’t find lots of great relationship opportunities in cities where plants are closing down.

Local Culture

The Wall St. Journal published a list of the Best and Worst 50 Cities for finding a relationship, based on Facebook statistics. Among the many factors that come into play:

  1. The paradox of choice in large cities makes dating feel overwhelming.
  2. Highly educated populations pair off later.
  3. Cities with lots of outdoor recreation options have more men, so more couples.
  4. Ethnicity – El Paso and San Antonio rank very high because Hispanic couples tend to pair off young.

A recent article in the NYXs describes how political beliefs influence marriage rates. (H/T: Say Whaat)

The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado.

…The places that discourage marriage most tend to be cities, including San Francisco, Philadelphia and New Orleans, as well as their surrounding areas. Nationwide, the jurisdiction with the single largest marriage-discouraging effect is Washington. But the New York area stands out even more. If we boiled down the list to only the country’s 50 largest counties, the top five in discouraging marriage would all be in the New York area.

(Note: The data is based on over 5 million people aged 26 who moved as children. The researchers found, though, that results were similar up to age 30.)

This divergence comprises a complicated picture including education, socioeconomic status, religion, race and open mindedness. For example, the rich in the Deep South are very likely to marry, while the poor are less likely.

Personal Style

Certainly the above factors may explain why the same woman could have vastly different dating experiences in two different locations. And yet there’s something else – I’ll call it the personal style factor. It’s not tangible in the sense that it will show up in census data.

The online dating site Loveawake did a state by state analysis of dating behavior based on the profiles of 6 million singles. 

I saw firsthand how differently attractiveness was defined on the coasts. Los Angeles was literally made for movie stars, and its long history of Beach Boys hits, surf culture, and the exoticism of an irrigated desert has generated the “California girl” archetype. It’s no accident that LA is the cosmetic surgery capital of the world.

When I came East to attend business school, I was stunned to see that the quickly identified “It” Girl was an edgy, pale, skinny woman with a dour expression and dark, heavy eyebrows. (Think Cara Delevingne with black hair parted in the middle.)

I moved East and got an upgrade. Pinky Lifter moved west and had the same experience.

Have you experienced this geographic dichotomy in dating? Do you have sense of the reasons behind it?

Most people don’t want to uproot themselves and move on the off chance the dating pool will be better – so how can we play to our strengths and maximize our appeal where we live now?

There’s a lot to unpack here, let’s start the discussion!