Too many men: Sex ratio affects men's financial behavior

Published: Thursday, March 15 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

When there were more men than women, the man expected to spend more money on things like engagement rings, dinners on a date and Valentine's day gifts. "In line with our other studies, men were willing to spend more on these things," White said. "But interestingly women also showed a difference. Women expected more from men when there were more men around."

Male brands

Penna with PPBH said advertisers try to take advantage of research like this when looking at strategy for their clients. "We have a saying we use a lot," he said. "The more you know, the less you guess. And guessing is expensive."

Male-brand advertising tends to use the idea of one man attracting multiple women, Penna said. "One alpha male surrounded by multiple women," he said.

White, however, said this research suggests those ads are not increasing men's competitive feelings. "So they are not making feel like they have to compete with other men to get these women," he said. "Having more women implies there are enough women for everyone to match up with."

Penna said it makes sense. Good brands cost more, but also help people feel more confident. "And if there are more males than females, men are going to look for any edge they can get," he said.

White pointed to the shifting student male/female ratios on college campuses from being predominantly male to predominantly female. "Men are less risk taking when sex ratios are balanced or female biased," White said. "So it might be that men take less risks on a college campus where there are more females than males."

If more males means more financial risks, there may also be implications in boardrooms, Congress and Wall Street. Maybe.

There are more influences in life than just the sex ratio.

For example, White said it appeared there were different patterns in China. At the same time China was becoming more male biased with more males than females, the country was also seeing an increase in the amount of savings. That result flies in the face of the study's findings.

Part of the explanation for the difference may be the different expectations and cultural mating systems, White said. In the U.S. people start with shorter relationships and then enter long-term relationships that even may end in divorce. In China, there is a greater value placed upon having a long-term relationship from the beginning.

But White said it still is a strong influence. "It is good to know what we are being influenced by," he said, "even if it is hard to change these things."

Email: mdegroote@desnews.com TWITTER: @degroote FACEBOOK: Facebook.com/madegroote

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