by Eric Ginsburg
When Bekah Hilburn-Trenkle recently saw a cute guy at Westerwood dive bar, she asked a mutual friend if he was single. She should’ve anticipated the response: “Of course not.”
And Hilburn-Trenkle, a 26-year old who works at Crafted in Greensboro, isn’t exactly alone in this experience.
The refrain is so common among single, straight women that it could be the Triad’s unofficial motto: There’s a huge lack of eligible bachelors here. The perceived imbalance between straight women and men, particularly among those in their twenties and thirties, is frequently described as a seismic rift; it’s practically a truism.
But is it actually true? And why is it that some women talk about the need for a few good men like they’re an endangered species, most of whom are already locked down in captivity?
A disinterest in sex, relationships, marriage and reproducing that’s swept Japan — as chronicled in comedian Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Love — scared the government so much that it began investing in solutions to bring singles together. Some have suggested a similar concern should preoccupy local municipalities, particularly Greensboro, prompting ideas like a singles bus shipping in charmers from the Triangle and Queen City. But before that happens, let’s explore some theories about the root problem here, take a look at relevant data, hear from single, straight women experiencing it firsthand and see what a few single, straight men have to say in their defense.
Some acknowledgments up front: For the sake of narrowing down to a particular phenomenon, this exploration is limited to people seeking heterosexual relationships. That leaves out a significant number of Triadians, whose experiences are no less valid, but nonetheless unique. It is also limited to those who were open to talking about their experiences and a relatively small pool of formal interviews, though countless conversations over many years pertaining to this alleged dating reality informed the piece. And for simplicity’s sake, we’re talking about folks looking for lasting monogamous relationships, which may not be what Triadians want.
Theory: A lack of single dudes
Before diving into what might be wrong with the pool of single guys in the Triad, there’s a more elemental possibility to consider: Is the pool itself too small?
The short answer in Greensboro is yes. According to 2014 data from the Pew Research Center, there are 97 single men per 100 single women in the Greensboro-High Point metro area, though it isn’t clear how much the Third City is dragging down Greensboro’s numbers. That may not sound like much of a difference, even when considering that this came out to 29,869 single adult men and 30,680 single adult women for the metro area. But it looks more imbalanced when compared to Winston-Salem, where there are 109 single men for every 100 women, or nearly 2,000 more in total.
The Pew Research Data is flawed for several reasons. For starters, it’s analyzing Census data, which means that it defines “single” as unmarried. So most of those single men in the Triad might be in long-term relationships. The data makes no differentiation between respondents’ sexuality, so there’s no way of knowing if a larger portion of the single men don’t identify as heterosexual. And it only takes into consideration those between 25 and 34, cutting off singles on both ends who are looking. That said, it does provide some foundational understanding and evidence that — at least in Greensboro — the pool may in fact be too small.
There’s more evidence that single women outnumber men: the colleges.
Excluding the Triad’s community colleges, more women were admitted to every local college or university for the fall 2014 semester, with the exception of Greensboro College, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Add to that the students at Bennett and Salem colleges, two women’s institutions, and female students far outnumber their male counterparts.
These figures don’t factor in trans or gender non-conforming students, but there’s enough of a gulf to extrapolate. At almost every college, women dramatically outnumber men — here are the figures for admitted students for Fall 2014 (the most recent figure available):
Greensboro: Guilford College enrolled 1,009 women to 857 men; NC A&T University compared 2,350 to 1,683, UNCG had 4,218 to 1,879, Greensboro College, the outlier, listed 303 women to 404 men and Bennett College admitted 1,432 women.
Winston-Salem: Wake Forest runs 2,040 to 1,786, UNC School of the Arts had 230 to 145, Winston-Salem State placed 1,934 to 733 and Salem College admitted 556 women.
High Point University followed the trend too, with 3,775 women to 2,167 men.
Oh, and of those students, women generally graduate at higher rates. Take UNCG for example, home to the highest admittance difference, where an average of 57 percent of female students graduate compared to 52 percent of men, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The gap is worse at some schools too, such as Guilford College (66 percent of women and 55 percent of men).
That means not only more female students, but also more educated women than men in the dating pool.
Considering that the Pew Research Center’s analysis of Census data excludes anyone from 18 to 24, the overall disparity between single, straight men and women is likely even higher, particularly in college-heavy Greensboro.
Other factors contribute to the balance or imbalance in population, most notably the availability of employment. That sort of analysis is beyond the timeframe of this piece, but is certainly worth exploring and undoubtedly a considerable component. Incarceration rates also figure into the equation, and though it isn’t immediately clear how many local residents are in prison, it’s undoubtedly more men than women.