Monday, November 15, 2010

High school dating and the laws of economics

In the Darwinian world of high-school dating, freshman girls and senior boys have the highest chances of successfully partnering up. Senior girls (too picky!) and freshman boys (pond scum!) have the least. ...

A recently released paper—called "Terms of Endearment," but don't hold its too-cute title against it—looked at how and when high-school students choose mates and their preferences when searching for a partner. Economists Peter Arcidiacono and Marjorie McElroy of Duke and Andrew Beauchamp of Boston College examined an enormous trove of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, more commonly known as Add Health. ...

[Arcidiacono] and his colleagues found one classic economic tenet driving the byzantine high-school dating market: Scarcity determines value. Among freshman boys, what's rare, and therefore valuable, are freshman girls willing to have a relationship and, even better, willing to have sex. Among senior girls, what's valuable and scarce are boys willing to have a relationship without having sex. ...

Unsurprisingly, the majority of high school boys want to have sex (though only 47.6 percent of freshmen boys do). Unsurprisingly, the majority of high school girls do not (though 50.1 percent of senior girls do). Over the course of four years, the power shifts from the freshman girls who don't want to have sex to the senior boys who do.

The conclusion? Though high-school girls don't really want to have sex, many more of them end up doing so in order to "match" with a high-school boy. For them, a relationship at some point becomes more important than purity. Because of that phenomenon, in schools with more boys than girls, the girls hold more cards and have less sex. Where there are more girls, the male preference for sex tends to win out. ...

And who does the high-school dating system disadvantage most, statistically? Senior girls, at least according to the skew between stated sexual preferences and actual sexual activity. Though that will undoubtedly come as cold comfort to those legions of lonely 14-year-old boys.
--Annie Lowrey, Slate, on market power in high school

No comments: