Thursday, February 18, 2010

When is the tipping point?

Blue = more men than women, Red = more women than men
US Census Bureau's 2006 American Community Survey, marital status by sex and age.

Over the past forty years, there has been a remarkable flip-flop in the ratio of single males to single females, particularly in the reproductive age bracket. Beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s, this ‘operational sex ratio’ slipped from male scarcity to parity and then to a relative excess of males, due to a decline in male mortality and an increase in divorce and remarriage by older men with younger women (Pedersen, 1991). The imbalance seems to have steadily worsened. In Germany, single men now outnumber single women up to the age of 60 (Glowsky, 2007). In England and Wales, the latest statistics show that the tipping point has inched up to the age of 75:

But good news is on the horizon. Figures show a growth in the pool of potentially eligible men — now they may end up being the ones doing the chasing. There are more single men in England and Wales than the total number who are married, divorced or widowed for the first time since comparable records began in 2002.

Single men outnumber unmarried women in every age group apart from the over-75s, according to the official statistics on marriage, published yesterday. (source)

The imbalance is even worse (or better, from the above journalist’s viewpoint) if we look only at childless singles. And then there’s the rising incidence of polygyny among ostensibly ‘single’ people …

What about the United States? Jonathan Soma has created an interactive map that shows the operational sex ratio by city and by age group. In the 18 to 29 group, single men clearly dominate (see above map). The tipping point is reached in most East Coast cities with the 35-39 group and in New York with 40-44 year-olds. So shy American males can count themselves lucky. They only have to wait until their late 30s to get married.

Why the difference between the U.S. and England? I suspect the difference lies in the African American and Hispanic American populations. African Americans in particular have a low sex ratio at birth and relatively high male mortality in young age brackets.

Surprisingly, this demographic shift has elicited little comment. I suspect part of the reason is that shy males tend to become computer programmers rather than members of the ‘chattering class’. The latter tend to be … single women.


Glowsky, D. (2007). Why do German men marry women from less developed countries? SOEP papers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research #61

Pedersen, F.A. (1991). Secular trends in human sex ratios: Their influence on individual and family behavior, Human Nature, 2, 271-291.


Tod said...

" the African American and Hispanic American populations. African Americans in particular have a low sex ratio at birth and relatively high male mortality in young age brackets."

African American and Hispanic American men would be dis proportionally of low SES.

IN a balanced state, the model predicts that 56% of low SES men would be married once, whereas 60% of high SES men would. In a male-biased state, however, only 24% of low SES men would be married once, but 46% of high SES men would. Thus, with a sex ratio shift from 1 to 1.1, low SES men become 2.31 times less likely to marry, whereas
high SES men are 1.31 times less likely"

African American women do not have a glut of marriagable men so the marriagable AA men who are single are that way by choice, in relation to AA women at least.

You seem to be presuming that the minority of 'excess' single AA men who are of marriagable status and SES are fully competitive in the wider marriage market on close to equal terms with the average man.

I would say they have a certain drawback in the eyes of most women; one which weighs against them counting as excess men for practical purposes.

Anonymous said...

Indeed if you load a 2000 census map of gender ratio, or perhaps ratio of singles in the young adult age group, within cities you'll notice a significant surplus of women in the ghettos of cities and a surplus of men everywhere else.

Tod said...

Sorry, my previous comment was rather foolish.

It's a deficit of AA and H men and an excess of AA and H women that improves the ratio of single males to single females for men wishing to marry.

My objection is basically the same however, I still have trouble with the idea of AA women being fully competitive in the wider marriage market on close to equal terms with the average woman. I know you disagree from The new marriage market and the future.

If the relevant men understood at the outset the choice was between that and never marrying they would not be deciding to remain single. However most men are going to take a very long time to come to that conclusion; by the time they do they will be into late middle age and not so appalled by the idea of never marrying.

Eugene said...

At least the US isn't China or India, where there are literally millions of doomed bachelors. Even Canada's sex ratio is worse (higher) than the US one.

The difficulty of finding women in the wealthy Western countries is nothing new. It can be done, but requires much more effort than in other parts of the world, most notably Russia, as well as the former Baltic Republics (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), where it really seems as though women are everywhere. Research shows that these "former-USSR" geographic regions have a much lower sex ratio than the West. I'll touch on the question of why later on.

For this reason, many Western men (including the Brits mentioned in the article) have "gone East" in search of wives.

From a man's point of view, the availability of single women has a lot to do with population size in the *generation following his*. If a man was born prior to a baby boom, he's going to have a lot of choice in potential brides, because there are large numbers of younger women for him (and younger women tend to marry older men).

However, if the population starts to shrink shortly after the man's birth, his options will be far more limited when he reaches adulthood. The number of younger women for him will be small because the next generation is smaller, and also all the males in his own (larger-sized) generation are on the hunt as well for the few available young females.

There is a theory that, apart from being fit and in shape, there's little a man can do with respect to succeeding with women if he was born at an "unlucky time" i.e. prior to a shrinkage in the population. Conversely, "pre-Baby Boom" men enjoy a variety of choices.

Let's get back to the question of why wealthier countries (e.g. the West) seem to have a lot more men than women. The issue has to do with the theory of sex allocation. Studies show that wealthier couples produce more sons than daughters (reference: "Sperm Wars" by Robin Baker), and poorer couples produce more daughters than sons. Since wealth can make males much more competitive, it's a good idea for wealthy parents to "bet on sons" -- in other words, subconsciously generate more male children. Sons can produce a lot of children, especially wealthy competitive sons. This is an evolved biological mechanism. If the parents are poor, however, it's better to produce a daughter: wealth is not in any way a factor in a girl's attractiveness, rather her fertility is. All young girls are attractive and fertile and can be married off, so daughters are a safer "bet" in places that tend to be poor or unstable. Unfortunately, daughters will never produce as many children as sons could *in theory* (they're limited to only a few). However, if the sons are not competitive, they are a bad option, and it's much better to go for a daughter.

So we shouldn't be surprised to find that poor countries and regions produce a lot of women. Suffice to say, if you're looking for a girlfriend, Las Vegas or Silicone Valley CA ain't the place to be. Your odds would be much better in a poorer location, such as a small village in South Carolina or maybe New Orleans LA. By the way, that's exactly what the map shows.

Eugene said...

To add to the previous post, this general rule of "wealthy locales supply the males, poor locales supply the females" can also be extended to countries as a whole.

On a global level, since the US and Canada are wealthier and more stable than, say, Russia and Thailand, it makes sense that the American and Canadian males would have more difficulty dating than the males in Russia and Thailand, since there are fewer females in the former countries and a lot more in the latter.

Anonymous said...

The sex ratio in former USSR countries has nothing to do with a magical ability for people to breed more daughters if they're poor, and everything to do with the fact that many of their men die young.

Poor countries have more daughters? Like in China? India? Every single nation in the world gives birth to more boys than girls. African peoples sex ratio at birth is slightly closer to 1:1 than the world average, which is probably where that voodoo magic of poverty caused sex selection comes from.

Ben10 said...

I don't know but to me, when you mix that fact with the high unemployment rate (in the US, there is supposedly more women than men at work), you've got an explosive mix.
It seems that every single occidental value is turned upside down to the exclusive profit, once again, of a global society with non-occidental values.
Crime will rise, suicide will rise, depression will rise, voting numbers during elections will decrease, education will decrease and so on.
So my question is simple:
'Who' can be happy with that ?

Tod said...

It's always the shy men who end up as excess males.

"It depends on the social environment. What works in one environment does not in another"

I can't think of any social environment where there is a reproductive fitness pay off to being shy so why are a significant percentage of men shy. Shyness in an adult male sounds like a touch of a schizophrenia spectrum disorder to me.

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