Thursday, August 27, 2009

The great sex ratio reversal

Anthropologist Peter Frost writes:
Beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a reversal took place in the ratio of single men to single women among people of reproductive age. This 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). ...

Indeed, over the past thirty years the new marriage market has failed to deliver its presumed benefits. Divorce rates have gone up, not down—because more women are filing for divorce. Illegitimacy has gone up, not down—because more women are voluntarily having children out of wedlock. And more women are postponing marriage or rejecting it altogether. True, men are participating more in family life, but this has not offset the overall withdrawal from family life by women. And true, the birth rate has gone up in the last few years, but for the rest of the past thirty years it was trending downward. The current boomlet probably has other causes.

These negative outcomes could have been predicted. ...

So what is the optimal sex ratio? If we wish to have a society with no double standard, i.e., equal limitations on male and female sexual freedom, the optimum would be parity at all reproductive ages. This is something we have not had for thirty years now, and it would take an act of political will to bring it back. We would have to scrap no-fault divorce and make joint custody the norm. We would also have to lower the sex ratio at birth, probably through incentives for the birth of daughters.

It could be done and probably will be. The question is how bad things will get before action is finally taken.

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