The Big Apple, Sin City, the Big Easy -- all famous nicknames for American cities. But have you heard of Man Jose? This week we explore if San Jose should be called Man Jose. Bay Curious is a new podcast from KQED that answers your questions about the Bay Area.
Listener Paul Schindler asked Bay Curious: “Does San Jose really deserve the nickname Man Jose?”
If you look at just the top-level census numbers, there are roughly the same number of men and women living in San Jose.
Break those numbers down further, though, and you’ll find a big difference among single people in their 20s and 30s. According to the 2015 American Community Survey, in this group there were roughly 134 men for every 100 women in San Jose. That's a big disparity!
It’s been this way for a while. In 2000, San Jose had more single guys than the entire state of Alaska.
“The region is dominated by technology companies, and men tend to major in those kinds of degrees, like engineering or computer science, at higher rates than women,” says Marianne Cooper, a Stanford professor at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research. “It seems they are coming out here for the jobs."
What happens when there are more single men?
In 2015, China had 116 boys born for every 100 girls, and the Indian state of Haryana had an overall population of 114 males for every 100 females. Some claim that these imbalanced gender ratios will lead to large numbers of unmarried men in impoverished areas, causing spikes in violence and crime. Others argue these claims are oversimplified.
Kristine Kilanski is a sociologist at Stanford studying boomtowns with distorted gender ratios.
“When we look at working-class men, we hold assumptions about them and how they treat women. We don’t have the same assumptions about how middle-class men treat women. We know that workplace harassment is commonplace in the tech industry and the oil and gas industry,” she says.
Kilanski lived in an oil boomtown for her research.
“There’s all these discourses about how putting a lot men together creates a lot of fights,” says Kilanski. “And there were a lot of fights in the bars. But I also saw men shopping in packs to get their groceries. They were living very much in family formations away from their homes."
Because San Jose’s single male population is largely employed and high-earning, it doesn’t receive the same kind of criticism as impoverished areas of China or oil boomtowns. Sometimes the gender disparity in San Jose is even viewed positively. In 2014, the Pew Research Center wrote that San Jose is the best place to go for women looking to marry.
Businesses have sprung up to cater to the dating needs of these well-to-do single guys.
Amy Andersen is the founder and CEO of Linx Dating, a matchmaking service in the heart of Silicon Valley. Her beautiful office is in Ansel Adams' old studio. Anderson got her start as a matchmaker after noticing the gender ratios while living in Palo Alto.
"If you're looking for good guys, come to Silicon Valley to find them," says Andersen.
You could use Tinder to find a partner, but Andersen is for those who seek committed partnerships and might even be willing to move for it. She sets up couples across the Peninsula and beyond.
“I get a lot of emails from women based down in Los Angeles. These women are professionals, and these women are really crying out. They write me and say, ‘Amy, do you represent any gainfully employed men?’ They are looking for a guy who isn’t a wannabe actor or part-time model,” says Andersen.
Other companies play the numbers in more extreme ways. One dating service flew a plane full of single women from New York to meet Bay Area guys.
What's the dating scene like?
After talking to two dozen young people on the street, most had not heard the nickname Man Jose, but a number of them had noticed the distorted sex ratios.
“Probably when you’re at the bars you see the most males," said local fitness instructor Justin Sweat. "They’re like vultures out there sometimes. When it’s like a 2-to-1 ratio, they’re definitely competing."
“I definitely feel that way. I don’t really notice it when I’m walking around, but when we are out at night I definitely feel like there’s a ton of guys trying to hit on us,” said resident Rachel Cucciara.
Does having more single men in San Jose mean there is a thriving gay scene?
With large numbers of young single men, you might think that the local gay scene would be poppin'. But Larry, a bartender at Mac's Club, says it's quite the opposite.
“With all the gay people here, no one really is out,” he says.
Mac's Club is one of the oldest gay bars in San Jose, and attracts patrons of all ages. Larry's been bartending there for almost 20 years.
“When [gay guys] are out, they’re in San Francisco and not here. I don’t know why it’s like that. And it hasn’t always been like that, but more so lately. One time there was more than 10 bars, now there’s only two, maybe three. ... It's shrunk quite a bit,” he says.
At Splash, a gay bar down the street, the bar’s average patron is in his late 20s or early 30s.
Bar manager Andrew Rulloda says, “San Jose is where you build your family. I’ve come to find it’s a lot easier to make friends here. We’re never seeing different people, because everyone here knows each other.”
“I used to use the term Man Jose all the time,” says Rulloda.
Podcast Credits: Reported by Jessica Placzek. Produced and edited by Olivia Allen-Price, Vinnee Tong, Paul Lancour and Julia McEvoy. Theme music by Pat Mesiti-Miller.