First, the study’s authors examined data collected on recent marriages between 2007-2012 and 2013-2017, gathered as part of the American Community Survey’s cumulative 5-year marriage statistics. That data was used to estimate the financial and sociodemographic characteristics of unmarried women’s potential husbands by creating economic profiles that resembled real husbands who had married comparable women. These potential husband estimates were then compared to actual population data on unmarried men across national, state, and local locations.

Researchers found that these estimated potential “dream” husbands had an average income about 58% higher than the actual unmarried men currently available to unmarried women. These synthetic husbands were also 30% more likely to be employed than real single men and 19% more likely to have a college degree.