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Try not to take it personally if you are a single, college-educated woman and it feels as if all the decent guys are taken. The problem is not you. It’s the demographics.

Women have been graduating from college in greater numbers than men for years, but this progress has come with a cruel and unexpected twist–a phenomenon I call “the man deficit.” In 2012, 34% more women than men graduated from college, and by 2023, the U.S. Department of Education expects female grads to outnumber male ones by 47%. As a result, there are now four college-grad women for every three college-grad men among Americans ages 22 to 29.

These numbers represent a demographic time bomb for marriage-minded women (the heterosexual ones, at least). Of course, lopsided gender ratios would not matter if college-educated Americans were more willing to marry across socioeconomic lines. But research shows that most are not. “Classism is bigger than racism in dating,” says dating coach and author Evan Marc Katz. Lopsided gender ratios alter behavior too by incentivizing men to play the field and delay marriage. Indeed, I believe that today’s college and postcollege hookup culture is largely a by-product of the oversupply of women.

It’s not just big-city millennials who are affected by shifting gender ratios. In Utah, for example, Mormon women outnumber men by a significant margin. The same is true in many Orthodox Jewish communities, creating a marriage crisis even among those who are religiously inclined to wed. “There are so many options for the men,” one Mormon woman told me, “it’s no wonder it’s hard for them to settle down.”

Birger is the author of Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game

This appears in the September 07, 2015 issue of TIME.

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