A man is hard to find in Md.

Census Report

August 15, 2006|By STEPHANIE DESMON | STEPHANIE DESMON,SUN REPORTER

Hannah Alphs has found guys to date since she started medical school three years ago at the Johns Hopkins University. In D.C. In Philadelphia. Even in New York.

"I never have found anyone in Baltimore," she said - or anywhere in Maryland, for that matter.

Women like Alphs, take heart. It might not be you. It might not even be him. It might just be that there aren't enough men in the state to go around.

According to data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau, the ratio of men to women in Maryland is among the lowest in the nation, with fewer than 93 men for every 100 women here. Only the District of Columbia and Mississippi have more lopsided gender ratios. Looking for the best odds to find a man? Try Alaska, with its 103 men to every 100 women - some towns, with up to 120 men per 100 women, have even tried to recruit women to move there.

Nationwide, more boys than girls are born each year. Nature, the thinking goes, knows boys are more reckless so it provides an excess supply. By the time they reach their 40s, women outnumber men - and the ratio keeps getting more skewed because women live longer (after 65, nationwide, six of every 10 people are women).

Maryland might be off-kilter, experts say, because its economy is more friendly to women, particularly the many government office jobs in Baltimore County and the Washington suburbs.

Others posit the theory that the numbers could be traced to the fact that African-American women typically outnumber African-American men and Maryland has one of the country's highest percentages of African-American residents. The disparity between the total number of men and women in the state has been noted for the past few years.

"This is more than a curiosity," said Martha Farnsworth Riche, former director of the U.S. Census Bureau and a fellow with Cornell University's Center for the Study of Economy and Society. "This is something policy-makers need to think about. This has a long-term effect on the economy, the education system."

One caveat comes from Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Hopkins. He suggests that men might be undercounted by the census, particularly in urban areas. Men are more often in prison than women - a population that wasn't counted at all in the Census Bureau's 2005 American Community Survey, which produced the data being released today. Low-income men might be more rootless, without a residence where census-takers can find them.

Still, all states have a prison population and low-income areas, so it could be hard to pin Maryland's poor standing on an undercount.

"A population is probably healthier when it has a 50-50 distribution of women and men," Cherlin said.

The national average, in the most recent data, was 96 men for every 100 women.

"There are serious implications," Cherlin said. "If you're a boy, do you have a father, a role model available to you? If you're a girl, can you expect to grow up and find someone to marry, to make a family with? Those are important questions. We want young adults to form stable families and raise children."

Riche, the demographer, said the problem is more acute in some nations - such as China, where boys are preferred over girls and just one child is permitted by the government - but even imbalances like Maryland's can be cause for concern.

Riche said that decades ago, when she moved to Washington right out of college, she and her professional friends were "still desirable" despite a skewed gender ratio even then because there weren't as many well-educated women.

Now, that is changing, too. College students are more likely today to be women than men. And many of the types of jobs that are big in the current economy, she said, use human relations and communications skills - something that favors women.

Of course, what concerns many women is the so-called marriage market.

In Maryland, according to an analysis of the new census information, unmarried men slightly outnumber unmarried women in the 20-to-34 age bracket - prime marriage territory - but from 35 on, unmarried women outnumber unmarried men by a greater and greater margin until after age 65, when there are nearly four unmarried women for every unmarried man in Maryland.

"It definitely puts women at a disadvantage," said Jillian Straus, author of Unhooked Generation: The Truth About Why We're Still Single, published in February by Hyperion Books. "Unfortunately, if you're a woman, there's a lot more competition out there."

Dara Hueting has a boyfriend, but she was not surprised when told about the gender disparity in Maryland. The 24-year-old, who works in marketing for T. Rowe Price in downtown Baltimore, said she has noticed it.

"It always seems like there are more women than men when you go about town," said Hueting, who lives in Frederick. "A comment is often made when you go out that there's no guys out - that's disappointing."

"Even for us girls who are taken," added her co-worker, Carolina Sanchez, 26.

Shannon Shea just finished her third year at Hopkins medical school. At 35, she had another life as an accountant in Atlanta switching careers.

"When I lived in Atlanta, it seemed you met a lot more [men] who were single and your demographic," she said. "At some point I'd like to find a significant other and settle down."

Alphs, 25, is one of Shea's classmates. She said she loves Hopkins, but as she thinks about where she'd like to do her medical residency, the state is giving her pause.

"If you want to have a family," Alphs said, "this is not necessarily the place to find a husband."

stephanie.desmon@baltsun.com

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