The economics of dating

Two stories have caught my attention in the past two days, and both deal with everyone’s favorite subject: dating! Or rather, I should say the stories are more about the lack of suitable mating options that has resulted from the intersection of two topics we blog about quite often on SM: 1) the growing new economies of India and China; and 2) the messed up sex ratio resulting from female foeticide and infanticide.

Yesterday, PRI’s Marketplace sent a reporter in to the heart of “Parent’s Matchmaker’s Corner” in Shanghai. The corner is basically a trading floor where worried Chinese parents gather to trade biodata on their late-twentysomething children, mostly without the knowledge of said children. The story was set in Shanghai but it might as well have been Delhi, as almost identical market forces are at work. Among the many great insights (some humorous) in the radio story (please listen) are the following:

1) Chinese A-list men date B-list women because they don’t want someone as smart as them. They want a trophy wife.

2) Many Chinese A-list men go abroad to seek their fortune, thus restricting supply.

3) Chinese A-list women get screwed because they are in high demand (since there is an overall shortage of women), but only have B and C-list men to choose from.

4) A-list women throw themselves into work and/or fool around waiting for an A-list man that might never materialize.

5) B and C-list men grow increasingly bitter and frustrated because all the B and C-list women have traded up and the A-list women only want them for their bods.

This chain of events is set into motion for two reasons: 1) there is a skewed sex ratio; and 2) in the “new” economies you have as many or more educated women as men. Again, everything above seems to apply to India as well. You’ll also note that in America reason #2 is already applicable, but what saves us from the same spiral is that we don’t perform sex selection.

Here is another similar story:

It was midnight here in Hanoi, or already 2 a.m. back in Seoul, South Korea. But after a five-hour flight on a recent Sunday, Kim Wan-su was driven straight from the airport to the Lucky Star karaoke bar here, where 23 young Vietnamese women seeking Korean husbands sat waiting in two dimly lighted rooms…

More and more South Korean men are finding wives outside of South Korea, where a surplus of bachelors, a lack of marriageable Korean partners and the rising social status of women have combined to shrink the domestic market for the marriage-minded male. Bachelors in China, India and other Asian nations, where the traditional preference for sons has created a disproportionate number of men now fighting over a smaller pool of women, are facing the same problem…

After an initial setback — his first three choices found various reasons to decline his offer — Mr. Kim narrowed his field to a 22-year-old college student and an 18-year-old high school graduate.

“What’s your personality like?” Mr. Kim asked the college student.

“I’m an extrovert,” she said.

The 18-year-old asked why he wanted to marry a Vietnamese woman.

“I have two colleagues who married Vietnamese women,” he said, adding, “The women seem devoted and family-oriented.”

One Korean broker said the 22-year-old, who seemed bright and assertive, would adapt well to South Korea. Another suggested flipping a coin.

“Well, since I’m quiet, I’ll choose the extrovert,” Mr. Kim said finally, adding quickly, “Is it O.K. if I hold her hand now?”… [Link]

I’ve never taken an economics class in my life but the link between these “market forces” and deleterious effect it is having on the social fabric seems interesting to me here. There might be a Nobel Prize in economics for someone willing to tackle it. If you follow the logic you end up with a lot of really smart, un-married, bitter women, and not-so-smart young men who are angry at everyone (as all dateless men are…ummmmm…not that I would know). If these two contingents ever join forces it could mean the end for China and India. I exaggerate greatly, but I’d love to hear your thoughts :)

As for me, I’m more than ok being a trophy husband someday. As long as I find an A-list woman willing to trade down.

112 thoughts on “The economics of dating

  1. I see 1st and 2nd gen men going back to India to find a wife way more often than I see desi women doing the same.

    true. if you’re a guy and have things going for you, you can look for girls in US cities and look at the cream of the crop from India. desi women on the other hand will go to the white team everytime before they go to back to India. in fact, i don’t think i have ever seen any girl ever go back to india to find a guy.

  2. Very interesting, sa! But I’ve met a few BDA (Bangladeshi American, my own abbreviation) ladies who went back to see if they could find husband material (or sometimes they did it for their parents). In most of these cases, they decided that the guys were “too different” for them to marry. In one case, the woman left after 6 months b/c the husband was physically abusive! It is not uncommon to see BDA ladies w/ recent immigrants (FOB is getting tired). In BDA circles, these guys are usually preferred (by the parents) b/c they are thought to be more virtuous, malleable (one lady said that her daughter can “train her husband” to do what she wants), hard workers, etc.

  3. so much whining! from a male perspective, get rich first—otherwise you are not worth anything. that is the way it has always been, that is what it will be. no amount of “political correctness” will ever make you attractive to a woman who is of higher “status” than you are. the flexibility is in what she considers “status”—for some women it is education, for others it is money, etc.

  4. Emma, for Bangladeshi ladies it is different. A lot of muslim women (including BDA women) may go back to desh to get married. There’s a major cultural difference if you consider muslim American desi women with other American desi women.

  5. Do I sense a little resentment from some of the men here that “their” women should dare to exercise their choice outside the “community” instead of sticking to the roles assigned to them? What’s wrong with being open-minded about who we love, and why the need to put down “white guys” as “safe and docile” choices? Is marrying a fellow desi not “safe” in its own way, and don’t most desis end up marrying each other? It seems all dating threads on SM come back to whiny guys whinging on about how desi women don’t go for them.

    And the silly sexism and insecurity exhibited by some men on this thread reveals why they might not be so desirable to women of any ethnic background.

  6. desi women on the other hand will go to the white team everytime before they go to back to India

    So its a team now? so given a choice you’d rather jump ship.

    It seems all dating threads on SM come back to whiny guys whinging on about how desi women don’t go for them.

    AND some whiny girls who want to know where to find guys. This is not a one sided opinion, but guys and gals have their set of complaints. Desi guys complaining about girls marrying outside their race AND desi gurls complaining about ABdesi guys going back to india and getting married.

    1. More desi guys marry out than desi women

    2. Desi women tend to be much more involved in the poco left than men. Desi mean tend to be have broader political leanings, but are no less politically involved (for the democrat candidate, I support, I see a lot of desi mean involved in fundraising, etc., a few women but not really that many)

    3. Status matters. Deal with it. For men and women. Looks matter for both genders, but once you get beyond a certain acceptability threshold, things like breeding, education, cultural fluency are much more critical

  7. Frequent lurker here. I’ve been luck enough to go through my 20s, 30s, and now hitting 40s, with the same bevy of women friends. Some of us married, others didn’t. And in the long run, it just doesn’t matter. A-list, B-list, whatever. If he’s right for you, go for it. If he doesn’t show up when you’re 29 or 39, don’t sweat it. The truest hell is a marriage in which you’re lonely, angry and sad. Buying a house, adopting a kid, planning your retirement, having adventures with your family while parents are still able, and handling financial planning well – you don’t need an XY around for that happy life. Me, I found my golden boy late in life, relative to my mom’s friends’ standards. If he hadn’t showed up, it would have worked out OK too.

    This probably applies to men too, but my guy friends all found interesting women to marry by their late 30s (cross-ref original post). Thank goodness, because too many had a predilection for sitting at their PCs late into the night with ladoo crumbs gracing their nascent tums. And this was before World of Warcraft. Just kidding.

    From the original post: ” Chinese A-list men date B-list women because they don’t want someone as smart as them. They want a trophy wife.” More power to them. And I wouldn’t write the trophy wives off. Groomed and glamorous at 25 can turn into something a lot more interesting at 45.