Men are more likely to spend on impulse, rack up debt and less likely to save when surrounded by more men and fewer women, a new study has found.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota tested the theory that the gender ratio affects economic decisions and found that male spending is tightly correlated to the scarcity of women.
In the first of two experiments, men read news articles that described the local population as having either more men or more women. They were then asked about spending and saving habits in that scenario. In the case in which women were scarcer, men said they’d save 42 percent less per month and borrow 84 percent more.
Separately, men were shown photograph sequences with different ratios of men and women in the pictures. They were then asked to choose between taking $20 now or $30 in a month. Again, in the cases where women were scarcer in the images, men opted for the money now.
The hypothesis here is that decisions aren’t made on a conscious level. The men were not made aware of the scarcity of women and the mere sight of more men subconsciously made them impulsive, competitive and flipped the urge to spend more now.
In the real world, the same proved to be true. After examining the sex ratios of 120 US cities, researchers found that single men have more credit cards and higher debt levels in cities where the sex ratios indicate fewer women.
Show me the money, say women
It’s behaviour that is not unique to humans, researchers said.
"What we see in other animals is that when females are scarce, males become more competitive. They compete more for access to mates," said Vladas Griskevicius, assistant professor of marketing at the university and lead author of the study.
"How do humans compete for access to mates? What you find across cultures is that men often do it through money, through status and through products."
Conversely, women’s spending ratios didn’t change, but they did overwhelmingly agree that men should spend more on their dates and Valentine’s gifts when they’re in the majority.
"When there’s a scarcity of women, women felt men should go out of their way to court them," said Griskevicius.
What women really want
Splashing the cash may help to impress a potential lady-friend, in the short term. But a separate study by British comparison website MoneySupermarket reveals that the key to keeping her happy is being careful with money.
Researchers found that for more than half of the women surveyed, debt was a dating deal breaker.
"While many may like to flash the cash to entice their other half, it seems being sensible with finances, having a secure job and a good grasp of money may improve your chances of finding Mr or Miss Right," said Kevin Mountford, head of banking at MoneySupermarket.
Despite the challenges money may bring to a relationship, more Australian couples are taking the plunge and opening shared bank accounts than ever before. Roy Morgan research data suggests 22 percent of transaction account holders have a joint account only, while 19 percent maintain their own account while also having a shared account with a partner.
Michelle Hutchison, spokeswoman for RateCity, said opening a shared account with a partner can be a good way to test the financial relationship before taking on a larger commitment such as a mortgage.
"A good example of a tip-toe approach to shared finances might be to open a joint transaction account for shared everyday expenses such as rent, food or utility bills," she said.
"Joint accounts work best when you share common goals and expenses."
Nowadays, opening a transaction account is incredibly easy, she said, thanks to the internet and a proliferation of comparison tools, such as RateCity, which allows you to compare and apply from hundreds of different accounts.