The Eligible-Bachelor Paradox

Last Spring, Mark Gimein, who is usually more known for his investigative journalism, wrote an interesting article using game theory to explain why there are seemingly so few eligible male bachelors in their 30s relative to the number of attractive, eligible women.

His thesis is that highly eligible women donโ€™t bid aggressively for men as they are always hoping for someone better to come along. Less eligible women bid more aggressively and end up with most of the men.

It strikes me that his conclusion is correct but his analysis inverted: men are the bidders and women choose whether to accept the bids. Highly eligible women reject bids hoping for future higher bids. The jilted men in turn bid for less eligible women who accept the bids.

Regardless, if you are a single woman in your thirties look at the bright side: you must be highly eligible ๐Ÿ™‚

The article makes for fun reading. You can find it at:

  • Regardless, if you are a single woman in your thirties look at the bright side: you must be highly eligible ๐Ÿ™‚

    Not so sure, I’m in my (early) thirties, and I think I’ll try to stick to women in their twenties for as long as I can. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Maybe being a multimillionaire helps a little? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Although I’m only “middle class”, I have to concur, I struggled in my early twenties, whereas I have no problems now. But I think it has more to do with confidence and security in oneself – women seem to be drawn to confidence and be able to smell insecurity a mile a way.
    ..and lets face it, most people in their early twenties barely know themselves, I certainly didn’t.

  • True, I should have written: “You must have been highly eligible in your 20s”… It’s interesting how the tables turn. As a single guy, it was much harder in my early 20s than my early 30s…

  • Women can definitely smell insecurity a mile away – I know I can. And it’s frustrating, because as a woman in my 20’s I keep wanting the men my age to be more secure, or at least own their insecurity instead of trying to hide it, which is even more painful to me than the fact that they’re insecure in the first place. What I really want is someone at my level, and I can’t seem to find him. I figure there must be some – where are they?

  • I do not know how you even consider North American women as desirable/eligible. I am a native born USA citizen but here is what my Brazilian girlfriend said and I do quote here:

    “I have seen soooo many good looking men here in the USA and they are always with uuuuuuuugly women!”

    She went on to explain north american men where the male analog to Brazilian women. So american guys…..we have been cheated!

  • I liked the Slate article because it implied that the only reason I am still single is because I refuse to settle. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Although I do agree with you Fabrice, I think it is much more the case that men are the bidders. I actually think that the paradox of why there are so few attractive men has a few causes completely unrelated to bidding behavior (though very related to game theory and asymmetric information):

    1. Women tend to be looking for life partners all the time, and therefore have a very long list of requirements, whereas men tend to be looking for something more short-term and therefore are much more willing to settle for a woman who might not be someone they would want to spend the rest of their life with.

    2. Despite the converging gender roles we have seen in recent years, women are still looking for a man who can “take care of them” and therefore there are some filters such as income that women apply and men don’t.

    3. Perception of attractiveness: Gay men are on average much more attractive than straight men, though whether this is something inherent (like the attractiveness gene being located on the same chromosome as the sexuality gene) or cultural (gay society just places more emphasis on looks, working out, etc.) I won’t bother to weigh in on. I actually think that the attractiveness of gay men in the overall population has caused many women to subconsciously set a benchmark for “average” attractiveness that is far above what the average is for the straight male population, therefore few men live up to their expectations.

    As a side question, however, can I ask the peanut gallery why having a younger woman is more desirable than an older woman? At 27, I don’t mind at all, but I find it confusing – I know that biologically you’re programmed that way because the younger woman has much more time to reproduce, but since most men I know today are trying to end up with fewer progeny, not more, this shouldn’t really apply. I get that a younger woman may be more physically attractive (less sagging, etc.), but also there is a big variability in how she is going to age – what happens when her metabolism slows as she approaches 30? At least with a 35 or 40 year old you can have a better idea of how she will look 5 years down the line. Finally, I’ve heard anecdotally that older women are much better in bed (more experienced, etc.). So I don’t get it.

    PS – Fred, if your girlfriend looks anything like most Brazilian women I know, her perception of whether or not American men are “settling” is probably skewed based on the fact that she is used to a much more attractive set of women and therefore her perception of “average” female attractiveness is much higher than what actually exists in the US. I for one am very glad I do not have to compete in Rio or Sao Paolo!

  • Your paradox is in a way applicable to the business of Classifieds, one of my passions. I wonder if a Classifieds of WANTS (rather than HAVEs) is feasible at all:

    A visitor to a Classifieds could be invited to be alerted (a missed call on his cell?) when an advertiser meets his needs.

    Maybe by using concepts derived from dating sites one could elevate the prosaic nature of Classifieds to a more interesting “fit”. After all the nature of Classifieds needs to evolve from its heyday of bulky newspaper sections ๐Ÿ˜‰