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Sex Ratios Count


Do we need more women or do we need fewer men?

I’ve now sent out a total of 69 individual letters to members of Congress supporting some form of gun control. I’m starting with the women, in addition to the men in my New Mexico delegation. I do a little research on their positions and then tailor the letter accordingly.

Anyway, I’m seeing a pattern. Republican women, of course, and women representing states that collect significant revenue from recreational hunting are more likely to oppose gun control. Often they mention family members who hunt, and sometimes they have guns of their own. Every now and then I begin to get tense and feel like writing, “This is not about daddy’s right to shoot rabbits, honey.” But I refrain.

When I got to California, though, I was amazed. They have 53 members in Congress, 21 of whom are women. Every single one seems to be in favor of some form of gun control, and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer will probably be leaders in the effort.

Of course, the congressional delegation from California is heavily Democratic, and every woman is a Democrat. There are only 14 Republicans among a delegation of 53. Come next election, the NRA will be after the ladies’ heads.

And looking at those figures, it makes you realize how different the world would be as a result of greater balance in the leadership of the sexes. It would probably be much more peaceful. Interestingly enough, I discovered that the CIA agrees.

I was tracking a sentence in some news item attributing the brutal rapes in India in part to the fact that there are so many more men than women in the country. This is due to a tradition of selective abortions, infanticide, and medical neglect of girl babies that impairs their ability to survive. Males are preferred anyway, and the tradition of dowries makes daughters a real financial liability. Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has estimated that as many as 100 million women may be missing in Asia as a result.

But back to the CIA. In The World Factbook (1912), it estimates the ratio of males to females in each country. Worldwide at birth, there seem to be more males than females, about 106,000 males to 100,000 females (1.06). Over time, gender imbalances can develop for different reasons like the above, but females who survive childhood tend to live longer. In the United States for example, among people 65 and older, the ratio shifts to 75,000 men to 100,000 women (0.75).

The ratios that interest the CIA are those that have gone way off kilter. There are two countries that really stand out in this regard. I’m looking at the population below age 15, because that’s where the sign of impending difficulty manifests. The first troubled country is India with 113,000 males to 100,000 females (1.13). China is even worse off with 117,000 males to 100,000 females (1.17) By comparison, the United States is 104,000 males to 100,000 females (1.04) in this age group.

In its introduction to these statistics, the CIA states that a high ratio of males to females, “could cause unrest among young adult males who are unable to find partners.” Right. We’re seeing that lately in India, aren’t we? Men running around in packs, assaulting, raping, and murdering women.

This one detail doesn’t begin to address the complex cultural biases in Asia that make life so difficult for women. However, barring some extraordinary circumstance that would “normalize” the ratio, these two countries among the major powers have far and away the biggest problems looming. Between the two, they account for 2.56 billion of the total world population of 7 billion.

In both of these countries, there are millions of males who will ultimately have no hope of finding a mate. The obvious thing to do with them would be to sequester them in the military. If you have something, though, you need to do what it’s for, so a war would be next. Maybe that is ultimately why the ratios in India and China are of concern to the CIA.

So I will stop here to let the comparison settle. On the U.S. side, we have the clear orientation of an unusual number of women in the delegation of the most progressive state in the country. On the Asian side, we have an unnatural shortage of women, much less of equal standing, in a society erupting in shocking acts of misogyny.

So what do you think? Do we need more women or do we need fewer men? And where? Or do we need more balanced influence and representation by both everywhere? Now that’s an interesting idea. What if we had real balance?

2 Responses to “Sex Ratios Count”

  1. Kate Heath

    Well, that’s easy . . . Fewer men – and fewer women. In short, fewer people! I am all for a balance of genders, but that alone won’t solve the problems on a larger scale.

  2. Elizabeth Robechek

    Dear Ellen,
    Keep showing us what we aren’t seeing and raising these awesome questions!!

    Have you found/read the work of Angela Glover-Blackwell on the significance of the shift in our (US) population ratios based on people of color and those of anglo origin?