Find­ing af­fec­tion can be just a ques­tion of look­ing in the right places

There are plenty of sin­gle women and men, but of­ten not in the same town

The Weekend Australian - - INQUIRER - SALT ON THE CEN­SUS Bernard Salt is man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of The De­mo­graph­ics Group,; Re­search by Si­mon Kuesten­macher, si­

There is a bunch of boffins holed up in the Aus­tralian Bu­reau of Statis­tics of­fices in Canberra who slave away to cap­ture and cu­rate the best of the 2016 cen­sus. And for very good rea­son. This data serves as an im­por­tant ba­sis to the al­lo­ca­tion of gov­ern­ment fund­ing and pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ment.

Ev­ery so of­ten a de­mo­graphic dis­rupter comes along and re­con­fig­ures the data for naught but the rank amuse­ment of the Aus­tralian peo­ple. This is one of those mo­ments. Cen­sus boffins are ad­vised to look away now.

I am go­ing to tell you some­thing that you prob­a­bly al­ready in­trin­si­cally know: find­ing af­fec­tion is a num­bers game. When every­thing else is stripped away, the de­mand driver for af­fec­tion is a func­tion of the num­ber of sin­gle men and the num­ber of sin­gle women in more or less the same age brack­ets. In­ter­est­ingly, I think this prin­ci­ple ap­plies equally to straight and gay cou­ples. We are a broad church here in Aus­tralia go­ing into Valen­tine’s Day, when we cel­e­brate all lov­ing unions.

So the sit­u­a­tion is that you are sin­gle and you are look­ing for love. Not an un­com­mon sit­u­a­tion, ap­par­ently. Where on the con­ti­nent are the best odds of find­ing a part­ner? It turns out with the cen­sus that the tar­get mar­ket can be fil­tered from the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. All you need to do is ex­tract from the over-20 pop­u­la­tion the num­ber that is sin­gle, separated, wid­owed, never mar­ried or di­vorced. The re­sul­tant fig­ure is good to know but it doesn’t an­swer the ques­tion of where the odds of find­ing af­fec­tion might be the best. What we re­ally need is the ra­tio of sin­gle peo­ple in one gen­der rel­a­tive to the num­ber in the other gen­der in all parts of Aus­tralia.

I mean, know­ing there’s 100 sin­gle men aged 25-29 in a min­ing town isn’t much good if that town has, say, 150 sin­gle women in the same age group. It leads to too much com­pe­ti­tion for the avail­able male prod­uct. And men get to think­ing they’re more at­trac­tive than they re­ally are: this con­di­tion, known as hot­ness delu­sion syn­drome, flour­ishes where there is a sur­plus of women.

The ques­tion then be­comes, what is the ra­tio of sin­gle men per 100 sin­gle women in five-year age brack­ets from 20-24 to 100-plus in ev­ery town? What you are left with is an at­las of Aus­tralia’s Tin­der towns.

Let’s start with the 20-24 age group. My fil­ter­ing shows that in the West Aus­tralian wheat­belt town of Merredin (pop­u­la­tion 2600) there are 134 sin­gle men aged 20-24 and only 34 sin­gle women in the same age group. These num­bers con­vert to a ra­tio of 394 sin­gle men per 100 sin­gle women. Merredin has a four-toone sur­plus of sin­gle men. It’s rain­ing men in Merredin. Young men, sin­gle men … avail­able men. Hurry, this of­fer can’t last.

The odds of a young sin­gle fe­male find­ing a young sin­gle male are pretty good in Merredin. There’s no man drought. There is a man dam. Although I have been told of other places where the odds might be good but the goods are odd. Now I would never ver­balise such a judg­ment but I feel I must re­port it for your in­for­ma­tion. It’s my plea­sure. Un­for­tu­nately for the young sin­gle men of Merredin, the na­tion’s hotspot of young sin­gle women isn’t even close to the west’s wheat­belt. In fact, the cen­sus shows that a north­ern sub­urb of Wagga Wagga called Estella (pop­u­la­tion 3500) has 210 sin­gle women in this age group and just 112 sin­gle men, de­liv­er­ing a ra­tio of 53 sin­gle men per 100 sin­gle women. Estella is ground zero in the Aus­tralian man drought.

You do re­alise that Merredin men are right now fir­ing up their utes, splash­ing on the Brut and head­ing across the Nullar­bor to Wagga Wagga. I want to see a ban­ner stretched across Baylis Street by Mon­day morn­ing that reads: “Wagga Wagga wel­comes Merredin Men”.

The rea­son for the gen­der clus­ter­ing is sim­ple: young Merredin women head to Perth, leav­ing the boys be­hind. And Estella is lo­cated close to Charles Sturt Univer­sity and so is uni-stu­dent skewed.

This process of fil­ter­ing sin­gle men and women and then scan­ning the con­ti­nent for the best odds in each age group can be re­peated. And, in fact, this process has been re­peated for all five-year co­horts from 20-24 to 100-an­dover in the map. Se­lect your tar­get mar­ket and the cor­re­spond­ing town where the odds of find­ing a part­ner are best.

Let’s jump for­ward to the 30-34 age bracket where the odds of find­ing a part­ner range from 47 sin­gle males per 100 sin­gle fe­males in Tas­ma­nia’s Wyn­yard to 210 sin­gle males per 100 sin­gle fe­males in the farm­ing com­mu­nity of Har­vey, south of Perth. Ac­tu­ally, Har­vey is lo­cated close to an alu­mina smelter and coal­fields that at­tract male work­ers. This isn’t look­ing good. The hot spots for sin­gle men and sin­gle women in each age group are at op­po­site sides of the con­ti­nent.

Take the 40-44 co­hort, for ex­am­ple: sin­gle women clus­ter in Yarra­bilba near the Gold Coast whereas sin­gle men con­gre­gate 4000km west in Port Hed­land.

What chance does love have to blos­som when our sin­gles are so cru­elly separated by this wide brown land? But there are glim­mers of hope. Sin­gle women aged 35-39 seem to like Nairne in the Ade­laide Hills. And sin­gle men in this age bracket are lo­cated in Nara­coorte, just 180km to the east. Nairne has 45 sin­gle women in this age group and just 20 sin­gle men. In Nara­coorte the odds are 64 sin­gle men and 36 sin­gle women.

Are you think­ing what I’m think­ing? How about we set up an elec­tri­fy­ing, fris­son-filled Nara­coorte-Nairne so­cial day that would surely solve this sin­gles prob­lem in a heart­beat. It’s all a mat­ter of align­ing the num­bers and then step­ping back and let­ting love do the rest. I do so like bring­ing peo­ple to­gether.

Later in life the odds of find­ing a part­ner isn’t a mat­ter of us­ing the cen­sus to di­vine a sur­plus of sin­gles by gen­der, it’s a mat­ter of life ex­pectancy. There are many ar­eas where men have the up­per hand over women. Life ex­pectancy isn’t one of them. In the 90-94 age group women out­num­ber men five to one in Al­bury. The best ra­tio of sin­gle men to women in this cat­e­gory is an equal num­ber of men and women in Sus­sex In­let.

The grand sweep of Tin­der towns that I have iden­ti­fied across the Aus­tralian con­ti­nent shows the di­ver­sity of our na­tion. On the one hand it’s kind of fun to know there’s lots of sin­gle men in the min­ing com­mu­ni­ties of Port Hed­land and Roxby Downs and in farmer towns like Nara­coorte and Merredin. But it also hints at some of the so­cial prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with the way we live to­day.

Young women grav­i­tate to the city and to life­style towns, leav­ing be­hind, and cre­at­ing wher­ever they go, gen­der im­bal­ances. Sin­gle women, for ex­am­ple, out­num­ber sin­gle men in places like Al­stonville near By­ron Bay, in Bellin­gen near Coffs Har­bour and in Maleny north of Bris­bane.

In places like Wyn­yard and Long­ford in Tas­ma­nia, I sus­pect there’s been an out­flow of men, per­haps to Ho­bart or to the main­land in search of work.

It prob­a­bly doesn’t mat­ter that there’s a gen­der im­bal­ance in some parts of our na­tion. Where there’s a will there’s a way, as they say. I don’t think that the pro­cre­ation of the Aus­tralian race is at stake. But the Tin­der town map does re­mind us of the sheer scale of the so­cial chal­lenges we face in farm­ing and min­ing in re­mote ar­eas. We live in a com­pli­cated land. I like the Tin­der town map be­cause it gen­tly re­minds those of us liv­ing in cap­i­tal cities of the rich­ness of life in the ro­man­tic ru­ral and re­mote parts of our coun­try.

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