mathematics

There’s a This American Life has an episode, for Valentine’s Day, that opens with a Harvard educated physicist relaying a story about doing the math to figure out his dating pool in Boston.

So you start with 600,000. Which sounds great, except that half of them are guys, right? And I’m only interested in girls.

He’s wrong.

So, let’s be honest, a Harvard physics student or post-doc is probably not going to date someone who lives in Boston (population 645,000). He’s more likely to date someone in Camberville (pop. 105,000 and 75,000, respectively). He might go to Medford (pop. 56,000), where Tufts calls home. Arlington (pop. 42,800) is also a possibility (in as much, maybe less, than I would say Boston is), but I add it for the sake of being thorough.

Now, let’s talk about his claim that half of his 600k people are women. He’s wrong.

M.’s Table of Wikipedia Data

City Total Population Men (per 100 women)*
Arlington 42,800 83.9
Boston 645,000 89.9
Cambridge 105,000 94.7
Medford 56,000 85.2
Somerville 75,700 93

*among people over the age of 18.

This general statistic (more women than men in the Boston area), has come up recently in conversation. Someone’s girlfriend moved to Boston. They broke up. “At least the dating scene here has to be better for her than [the Midwest].” Someone else considered that the last three men they had sex with were all from outside the area.

Because I like pushing numbers, let’s see some more. I’ve rounded to the nearest integer because you can’t date .428ths of a person.

M.’s Estimates on Number of Vaguely Age Appropriate Dating Pool For A Random Adult Assuming No One Is Married, They Do Not Mind May-December Relationships or Heterosexual Relationships

City Total population % Over 18 # of Men # of Women
Arlington 42,800 35.6 6,951 8,285
Boston 645,000 47.5 145,040 161,335
Cambridge 105,000 59.8 30,540 32,250
Medford 56,000 42.6 10,974 12,881
Somerville 75,700 58.5 21,339 22,945
Totals 924,500 N/A 214,844 237,696

Conclusions

Reviewing assumptions:

  • Everyone wants to partner monogamously
  • Everyone is into heterosexual relationships
  • Adultery is not an issue
  • Anyone in the 18-44 age range is acceptable
  • People are looking to partner only within the Greater Boston Area.

Based on these assumptions, 22,852 women are unable to couple. That’s approximately the population of Lincolnia, Virginia.

Exempt Parties

This doesn’t take into account things like married couples In Somerville, 32.3% of the 31,555 households (10,192) were married couples. This is where things are going to get kind of weird. Most of my friends live in shared apartments. SW and LR are married, but have two (unmarried) housemates. I also don’t know how many households are over the age of 44 (or under the age of 18).

M.’s List of Households

City Total Households % Married # of Married Households
Arlington 19,007 45.1 8,572
Boston 252,699 25.5 64,438
Cambridge 44,032 28.9 12,725
Medford 22,067 45.6 10,063
Somerville 31,555 32.3 10,161

Gallup estimates that 4.4% of adults in Massachusetts are gay. This does not take into any account how many of these people are men or women. There are people who are asexual. There seems to be a decent turnover rate in the population, due to the universities and growing startup culture, though that may just be a reflection of my social circles.

Personal Conclusions

It’s no wonder my female friends keep getting together with dudes who don’t live here.

Edit: 2,2945 > 22,945. Thanks, TR.

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