The current issue of The Economist has a leader on the growing imbalance between males and females in birth cohorts in China and India and some other countries. The sex ratio at birth, or “masculinity ratio”, is normally about 1.05. Amartya Sen and Ansley Coale drew attention to the high ratios emerging in China and India some twenty years ago. The ratio has continued to rise in these countries and has now reached 1.30 in some Chinese provinces.
The Irish sex ratio at birth was 1.058 in 2008. This is exactly the median for western European countries. Moreover, there has been virtually no change in the Irish ratio over the past fifty years – it was 1.0523 in 1960 and 1.0589 in 2000. This suggests that changes such as the increased availability of pre-natal scans and the rise in pregnancy terminations by Irish women since 1960 have not had any differential gender impact.
As The Economist points out, the sex ratio is an important indicator of the place and status of women in society and the economy. The normality and stability of the Irish ratio is therefore not without its significance.
7 replies on “The Irish “Masculinity Ratio””
A very interesting topic. In light of ecoonomic development in Asian countries, it’s chilling to read that the richer and better-educated are apparently most prone to terminating girls.
Given that the extra male births are apparently nature’s way of counter-acting higher child mortality among boys, one has to wonder what effect improved medical care will have on the male:female ratio in the future and how that will affect societies.
To quote Captain Renault: “Someday they may be scarce.”
The effect in China will be even worse on the average male due to the acceptence of de facto polygamy and mistresses among the elite, which removes an additional chunk of women from the average mans dating pool.
Examples of the opposite in history are interesting – Russia after world war 2 and the purges, for example, and even today, men have and had enormous choice due to the skewed sex ratio in their favour. WWI removed an enormous chunk of the French male population, and is one of the main factors behind the ‘mistress boom’ in France after the war, when even poor males could mate with multiple women, and from whence the French reputation somewhat derives.
Since the 1960’s and the triumph of female choice the western dating market has largely been skewed in favour of alpha males, with the main losers being beta males. Soft polygamy is already the norm in most western cities, a return to evolutionary essence, and move driven by women, who are the choosers, not men.
What, also, do you mean by female rights in society? In Islamic countries the ratio is completely skewed in female favour due to polygamy, with most average to below average males having little chance of finding a girl. So I dont see how more women vis-a-vis men is necessarily a good thing even for womens rights. In the dating market women in the west already pretty much decide everything. Just visit any night club and you’ll see that. This awesome power is rarely if ever commented upon.
Amartya Sen’s article, More than 100 Million Women are Missing, was in the NY Review of Books, Dec. 1990
“The numbers of “missing women” in relation to the numbers that could be expected if men and women received similar care in health, medicine, and nutrition, are remarkably large. A great many more than a hundred million women are simply not there because women are neglected compared with men. If this situation is to be corrected by political action and public policy, the reasons why there are so many “missing” women must first be better understood. We confront here what is clearly one of the more momentous, and neglected, problems facing the world today.”
The sex ratio has been widely studies by ethologists: the key idea in this literature is the Trivers Willard hypothesis (1973) which argues that females in better condition (for example those producing larger litter sizes) will have a higher sex ratio as males take more resources.
Its been long conjectured that this theory might also apply to humans but the evidence seems somewhat scant & its unclear how exactly one applies it. Doug Almond is one of a number of economists who have worked on this recently.
Planned parenthood is part of what used to be the eugenics movement. What the skewed sex ratios mean is that fewer children will be born to the less well off. There will be increases in prostitution and homosexuality. In line with modern PC attitudes and culture.
So the disruptions will be less than we think. Iran and Iraq solved their excess men problems with a neat war providing profit opportunities to mainly US weapons manufacturers. China too used to employ mass charges against machine guns in Korea. History often repeats.
This so called problem is going to get worse, not better. Make investment decisions accordingly. After the economic expansion, with the aid of Hollywood and Bollywood, the attitudes may start to change. But it will take two generations, maybe.
# Pat Donnelly Says:
What the skewed sex ratios mean is that fewer children will be born to the less well off.
The Economist article says that the skewed ratio is more common among the better off (1), presumably not because the poor are more keen on daughters but because they can’t afford the requisite screenings and abortions as easily. This suggests that either the poor will have more children than the better off or that better off males will have to marry “down”, something that might be resisted in India because of the bridal dowry tradition and the caste system. In either case India and China face a social upheaval. The Economist article refers to the strains this is causing in South Korea (2). Parents that have chosen to have boys in preference are going to find that a strategy that seems to make sense for an individual set of parents becomes a disaster for all such parents (and indeed for all parents of boys in these countries) when widely adopted. Many of them are going to find that they will have no grandchildren of either sex, the one thing they so dearly want. Those parents who value or at least don’t object to daughters will have more children and grandchildren and with luck that will change society over the longer run. There aren’t enough places in the world with surplus girls to supply the shortfall and anyway the girls from such places would probably be unacceptable to the Indian and Chinese parents in question, or indeed to their governments as immigrants.
There are echoes here of what happened in Ireland in the century after the Famine. The bachelor farmer is a well established figure of Irish folk memory, a figure that has an underlying reality. I understand that more Irish women emigrated than did Irish men, creating a shortage of potential wives. It didn’t cause social unrest but there is a case to be made that it caused social, economic and cultural stagnation.
Economist March 4th, 2010
(1) The spread of fetal-imaging technology has not only skewed the sex ratio but also explains what would otherwise be something of a puzzle: sexual disparities tend to rise with income and education, which you would not expect if “backward thinking” was all that mattered. In India, some of the most prosperous states—Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat—have the worst sex ratios. In China, the higher a province’s literacy rate, the more skewed its sex ratio. The ratio also rises with income per head.
(2) South Korea is experiencing some surprising consequences. The surplus of bachelors in a rich country has sucked in brides from abroad. In 2008, 11% of marriages were “mixed”, mostly between a Korean man and a foreign woman. This is causing tensions in a hitherto homogenous society, which is often hostile to the children of mixed marriages. The trend is especially marked in rural areas, where the government thinks half the children of farm households will be mixed by 2020. The children are common enough to have produced a new word: “Kosians”, or Korean-Asians.
“The normality and stability of the Irish ratio is therefore not without its significance.”
Yes – Good News at a time when the republican, in the true sense, foundations of the nation are taking a good few knocks – ‘children of the nation equally’ – long may it continue.
Now if only most of those who were born here could stay here …….. but that would digress into yet another area of your expertise.