Odds - Not so good anymore

Census data shows Alaska is no longer the state of abundant men

Posted: Tuesday, May 22, 2001

They used to say the odds were good for women seeking men in Alaska. Now the odds are almost even.

Census data released today show Juneau is split almost 50-50 by gender. Statewide there are still 3 percent more men than women, but in a state with only 626,932 people to begin with, that's not going to help a single woman much.

"It's very hard to meet men in Juneau, because they're shy," said June Dunlap, a member of a Juneau singles' group who's moving out of state in pursuit of romance.

Alaska used to be the state where men came to catch fish and women came to hook men. When Susie Smutz started Alaska Men magazine in 1987, she was told there were about eight times as many men as women in the state. That was an exaggeration even then. In 1990 there were only 4 percent more men than women, and the gender gap has continued to close.

"When I first became single, our singles group was half and half," said Suzanne Haight, who's watched the number of single men in Juneau shrink over the last 15 years.

Now the Juneau singles group has about two women for every man.

"I think a lot of the 'men who are men' go skiing or hunting or fishing or whatnot and they're just either too shy or haven't gotten around to joining our group," Haight said.

But the men say it's no easier to find a woman either, even though there supposedly are more of them.

"The numbers are extremely deceiving because there just aren't as many available women as there are numbers," said Sterling Prohaski, who attends Juneau singles' activities. "They're just caught up in family, busy at work, caught up in long-distance relationships."

He's right. If you subtract all the married couples, children and senior citizens from the census numbers, the gender gap is much wider. There are almost 10,000 more single men than single women in the prime dating years of 18 to 65 statewide.

Older men have their pick, though. The 65-and-over crowd is 53 percent women. Smutz said she is always looking for more senior men to feature in her matchmaking magazine.

"There are so many men that died. They just worked themselves to death and then the wives are left and they're lonely," Smutz said. "I have a huge statistical bank of women in their 60s."

Even though the facts no longer back it, Alaska's reputation as a place to catch men and big fish probably will remain. Alaska Men magazine is frequently featured on television, including two documentaries in England and Australia scheduled for filming this year. Recruiters at job fairs trying to draw nurses north bring Alaska Men magazine with them.

"They say it's a big draw for their booth," Smutz said. "Women come up here and they think, 'I'm going to be walking down the street and men are just going to be growing on trees and I can just pick them and put them in my basket.' "

She tries to warn them it won't be that easy. The men, and women, in Alaska are spread thinly over a large area. For her, that's job security. Even with the number of men and women in Alaska evening out, singles often need help meeting, Smutz said.

"It's not always a matter of sheer numbers. It's a matter of the right person," said Smutz. "It doesn't matter if you were 20 men with a thousand women, if your soulmate isn't there."

As guys have pointed out to Smutz, there may be single women in their town, but they already know them all and none are a good match.

"It really is a lot harder for these guys in the smaller areas," Smutz said.

A common assumption is that the women are in the cities and the men are in the outlying areas. Actually, everybody is in the city. More than 40 percent of Alaska's population, both men and women, live in the Anchorage area. Another 10 percent each live in the cities of Fairbanks and Juneau.

Of the three big cities, Fairbanks has the best odds for single women, with 51.3 percent men. But if the Juneau singles' group's Haight really wants a date she could go to Port Clarence, on the Seward Peninsula, where there are 20 men and one woman.

Men outnumber women at least 3-2 in 38 smaller Alaska communities, including Akutan, Ivanof Bay, Nikolai, Petersville, Coldfoot, Salamatof, Chiniak and Unalaska.

"We do get a lot of men here, because there's fishermen. That's where the bulk of our men come from," said Virginia Sobrepena, at the Unalaska Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's noticeable when it's fishing season."

Not only are most of the fishermen men, most of the jobs associated with fishing, from working on a slime line to boat mechanics, draw men, Sobrepena said.

Not all Bush communities are man's land. Women make up a distinct majority in Igiugig, Covenant Life, Miller Landing, Twin Hills and Pilot Point, all towns with 55 percent or more women. Those towns don't rate as metropolises, but each has a respectable population of 53 to 102 people, by the census count.

Perhaps it's a sign of the changing gender ratios that many of the women who write to, and marry, men from Alaska Men magazine actually are from Alaska themselves. And Smutz has started putting Alaska women on the Alaska men Web site as well.

This is part of a series of Juneau Empire articles based on information from the 2000 census. Articles will continue as the data is released. Reporter Kristan Hutchison can be reached at khutchison@juneauempire.com.

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