NEW YORK – As people gear up for couples parties and midnight kisses this New Year's Eve, some men might find dates a little harder to come by.
2000 Census statistics and a recent poll by the online dating service Match.com suggest a shortage of single, available women in the mid-20 to mid-30 range, as compared to single, available men. The Match.com study, conducted last month, found 58 percent of men surveyed believe single women are scarcer this year than two years ago.
Thirty-something men say they've definitely noticed a gap. And at a time when they're at least beginning to think about marriage, some are panicking over the shrinking numbers.
"It definitely feels like there are less quality women out there," said Rengan Rajaratnam, 31, a hedge fund analyst in New York. "I stress about it. It's like they've all gone away or someone snatched them all."
The deficit is expected to grow – increasing pressure on guys looking to find a significant other. Fifty-five percent of men polled by Match.com said they were more bent on snagging a serious girlfriend.
"It looks like men are more interested in relationships today versus a year ago," said Trish McDermott, a founding member of Match.com. "The type of relationship they are likely to say they're interested in is shifting toward commitment and marriage."
The switch in numbers comes after more than a decade of men enjoying the upper hand. During most of the 1980s and '90s, there were sometimes as many as two single women for every man in certain age groups.
The 2000 U.S. Census figures paint a different demographic picture. While about 2.17 million women 30-34 fell into the "never married" category, 2.89 million men in that age group did. And in the 35-39 age group, 1.61 million women were never married, as opposed to 2.24 million men.
Thirty-something men who want women in their mid- to late-20s will also find themselves competing. For the roughly 5 million never-married men 30-39, there are only about 3.6 million never-married women 25-29.
That's reassuring news for women who have long felt like they were the ones biting and clawing for quality men.
"There are as many guys in my age group who are available as when I was younger," said one 30-year-old woman from the Detroit area. "I think it's really good for the women who want to get married."
Online dating services have witnessed the phenomenon first-hand, with nearly all experiencing a shortage in female members. Of the 2.5 million registered singles with profiles on Match.com, 60 percent are men and 40 percent are women. That's inspired the company to launch TV ads targeting women.
As a result of the shrinking pickings, men seem more willing to date older women than they have been in the past. Match.com found that while men reported a top age range for a dating partner as two years older last year, this year they say they'd date a woman three years older. They've also increased their low-end age range by one year.
"What we suspect may be driving this is simply the economics of dating today, supply and demand," McDermott said. "The pool of eligible single women has diminished in this age range, and ... men are compensating by being more open."
Some men still aren't hearing their biological clocks ticking.
"Am I feeling pressure now? The answer is no," said Scott Werner, 30, a New York venture capitalist who calls himself "idealistic."
Werner admits he's likely to feel differently in five years, but for now he's waiting for his one true soul mate – in spite of the latest data.
"Those numbers, while they definitely are a bit frightening, are not going to make me change my behavior," he said.
McDermott has some advice for anyone looking for a suitable mate: Stay in the game, have fun and be open-minded.
"Do not limit your romantic opportunities by preconceived notions of what will work and what won't," she said.
She also doesn't believe the latest data will have a major impact on dating.
"Love and Happily Ever After aren't about statistics. Research can shape activities for single people, but it doesn't dictate their romantic outcome. They dictate that."