Alaska Life

Curious Alaska: Are there really a lot more men than women in this state?

Curious Alaska is a regular feature powered by your questions. What do you want to know or want us to investigate about life in Alaska, stories behind the news or why things are the way they are? Let us know in the form at the bottom of the story.

Question: Are there really more men than women in Alaska?

Alaska is full of myths. One of them is the long-held belief that there are more men than women here.

And here’s the thing: It’s true. The state does have slightly more people who identify as male than female, on average.

In fact, Alaska has the overall highest male-to-female ratio nationally and is one of few states with more men than women.

Demographers estimate that there are 106 to 108 men for every 100 women in Alaska.

But before booking a ticket in search of your grizzled, flannel-clad man of the north, you should know that there’s some nuance to that number.

Despite the overall data appearing favorable for those seeking a prospective male suitor in Alaska, the decent-seeming odds begin to shrink upon closer examination.

In urban areas like Anchorage and Juneau, the breakdown between males and females is pretty close to even. And in places like Sitka, Haines and Skagway, the trend is reversed entirely: There are more women than men.

So where are all these mystery Alaska men?

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Generally, the highest ratio of men to women is in the far western Aleutian Islands and the North Slope Borough, where industries like fishing and oil — which tend to be male-dominated — are most prevalent. The ratio in the Aleutians is over 180 men for every 100 women, according to Eric Sandberg, a demographer with the state.

There’s a well-known saying about men in Alaska. Liz Raines, a local television reporter who married Iditarod musher Matthew Failor, told The New York Times about it in a writeup of their wedding last year.

“If you’re a woman in Alaska, you always hear that ‘the odds are good but the goods are odd,’ ” Raines told the paper.

The lore of Alaska as a place overflowing with men has persisted for decades.

In the 1980s, legendary talk show host Oprah Winfrey flew 20 single Alaska men (mostly from Anchorage) to Chicago to help them in their search for love.

There’s even a whole magazine dedicated to single men in the state in search of love, the aptly named Alaska Men (that’s how Oprah found the guys).

Susie Carter, longtime editor and founder of the magazine, said in a recent interview that the myth of Alaska men stretches far and wide. When she and the men arrived in Chicago for Winfrey’s show, police were holding back thousands of women, Carter said.

“We all just stopped, like this pack, together, we’re all huddled together, ‘What’s going on? Is there someone arriving at the airport that we don’t know about?’ ” Carter said about their arrival. “And we realized it was us they were screaming about.”

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Unfortunately for those living in the 21st century, you’ve missed the peak of Alaska’s man bounty by about 100 years. Now, with the ratio getting closer and closer to parity, a time machine might be the only way to get back to when men vastly outnumbered women.

Around 1900, there were nearly 260 men for every 100 women in Alaska. But that number took a precipitous dip in the following decades, all the way to 145 men per 100 women by 1940. While the number climbed up to 161 a decade or so later, it began to fall once again.

And in the years since, the ratio has mostly continued to decline — now likely barely perceptible to most outside of the Aleutians or the North Slope.

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