Gender Demographic Trends and Thoughts

I found an interesting article written by David Bauer with a very detailed discussion of gender demographics.  I highly recommend it.  For a free article, it is quite informative.  Bauer shows that there are more men than women on the earth mostly due to the practices of China and India – where a preference for sons has resulted in many female abortions (and female infanticide).  This practice was exacerbated by China’s one child policy because many Chinese would kill their child if the child was a girl so they could then be allowed to try for a boy. Bauer’s collection of statistics also shows that most developed countries have slightly more women than men because women tend to live longer.

Bauer gave some reasons why women live longer than men, but another reason is simply because men engage in more risky behavior than women.  This is not just human behavior, it is true in the animal kingdom as well.  For example, male monkeys in Japan will play a game where they try to cross a busy highway despite (or because of) the risk of death.  Female monkeys do not play such games…

Bauer points out gender differences in migration, especially illegal migration.  I had not considered this before, but it makes sense and has implications for entire nations.  For example, Bauer showed that Mexico now has a larger percentage of females because so many of their males are illegally in the United States.  It makes one wonder how much of the crime in Mexico is due to the fact that so many men – who traditionally serve as defenders of the home – are away.

While it was a bit outside his topic, I would add the role of social norms to his discussion.  Social norms influence population growth by putting an effective cap on family size in cultures where reliable birth control is available.  For example, a few generations ago most Americans thought four kids was the ideal family size.  Once reliable birth control was commonplace, four became the cap for most families – people who reached their ideal family size stopped at that point.  Since all families did not reach that point, many people saw families with less children and that became the norm for the next generation.  China is experiencing the power of social norms right now – the Chinese government has seen the error of their ways concerning the one child policy and this policy is no longer rigidly enforced and may be going away.  However, since a generation of Chinese has grown up seeing families with only one child, this is now the social norm.  Even if the Chinese government paid parents to have more kids, they will find most families will only want one child.

Female Demographics in the News

The Wall Street Journal has recently published two interesting articles regarding female demographics.  One had to do with women who decide to be full-time homemakers.  29% of all mothers with children under 18 stayed at home, the highest number recorded since the late 1980s.  85% of married stay-at-home mothers are doing so by choice, not necessity, much higher than other demographic segments.

The other article discussed the findings about income difference between genders.  It took them a bit to get to the meat of the findings, but they did a good job summarizing it.  Men and women in the same fields with the same experience tend to make the same amount.  However, genders tend to make different decisions during their career (e.g., men are more likely to pursue life-threatening occupations that pay more and women are more likely to work part-time or stay home for several years when a child is born).

Taken together, these articles and other findings indicate that at as long as my daughters are well educated, they will have ample opportunities to either work at a career, work at building a family, or a combination of both.  Obviously there is still room for improvement, but the data provides ample room for optimism.