The long-run consequences of male-biased sex ratios

From Pauline Grosjean & Rose Khattar, forthcoming, Review of Economic Studies:

We document the short- and long-run effects of male-biased sex ratios. We exploit a natural historical experiment where large numbers of male convicts and far fewer female convicts were sent to Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries. In areas with more male-biased sex ratios, women were historically more likely to get married and less likely to work outside the home. In these areas today, both men and women continue to have more conservative attitudes towards women working, and women work fewer hours outside the home. While these women enjoy more leisure, they are also less likely to work in high-ranking occupations. We demonstrate that the consequences of uneven sex ratios on cultural attitudes, labor supply decisions, and occupational choices can persist in the long run, well after sex ratios are back to the natural rate. We document the roles of vertical cultural transmission and marriage homogamy in sustaining this cultural persistence.

Hat tip goes to the excellent Kevin Lewis.


So what does that say about China and India?

I'm more wondering if this says something about America.

Especially California, where the sex ratio imbalance during the Gold Rush period was quite notable.

And as we all know, California today is marked by women getting married and being stay at home mothers in notably higher proportion than other parts of the U.S., such as Utah, where the sex ratio imbalance was not so extreme, right?

Having a giant number of attractive women working in the entertainment industry has for some reason failed to make it a feminist utopia.

In contrast, when my mother was working as a secretary at heavily male Lockheed after her first husband was killed in combat on Iwo Jima, she'd married my father by 18 months later. Her best friend in the secretarial pool married the guy who went on to be the main designer of the SR-71.

It's almost as if it's good to have supply and demand on your side.

Fascinating anecdotes that having nothing to do with the California Gold Rush and its notable sex ratio imbalance.

And LA only became important in the 20th century, compared to San Francisco, with the discovery of oil and the establishment of the film pirates of Hollywood.

'It's almost as if it's good to have supply and demand on your side.'

Do people from LA learn nothing about the Gold Rush? Though it is possible that you feel prostitution is a fine way to exploit supply and demand in a situation of an extreme sex ratio imbalance, of course.

This appears to me to be a "cause" desperately searching for an "effect". I doubt there is any relationship between any of these facts and theories.

The sex ratio imbalance during the California Gold Rush was very brief. Most of the Forty-Niners failed to find much gold, gave up and returned back east.

Yes, the sex ratio of Mexican and Indian immigrants is skewed to male.

All immigrants groups that have to come to America, since the founding of the U.S., have skewed male. In part because many of them were not really immigrants, but men looking to earn money, often with the goal to marry a woman in their own country. 'An interesting feature of Italian immigrants to the United States between 1901 and 1920 was the high percentage that returned to Italy after they had earned money in the United States. About 50% of Italians repatriated, which meant that often times the immigrants did not care about learning English or assimilating into American society because they new that they would not remain in America permanently.' Mexican 'immigrants' also often fit this pattern, though obviously accurate numbers are under dispute for a number of reasons. Basically, most Americans cannot imagine that many people are simply in the U.S. to earn money, as compared to wanting to become Americans - of course, it is also true that some that plan to return do not.

The one vague exception, and one that would not normally be considered under 'immigrant group,' would be African slaves. This information is before the founding of the U.S., but is likely representative enough - 'From 1700 to 1740 an estimated number of 43,000 slaves were imported into Virginia, and almost all but 4,000 were imported directly from Africa. Recent scholarship suggests that the number of women and men imported in this period was more or less equal and included a high number of children.'

I just know my relatives who are in the US "simply to earn money".

You're right, they don't want to become Americans. Anyway they have been living there for 20+ years. The children have been reared on the idea of "we're just here temporarily" and neither have job or language skills to return to home country nor fully integrated to US.

Grandchildren arrive and my chauvinistic uncles still says "I'm not American" but already finished paying the mortgage. I just feel sorry for my cousins who grew up in a cultural limbo and are still there. Stubborn parents reared children who are not adapted neither for the US neither for home.

American culture unfortuntately is pretty degenerate these days. Every thing from music, movies, media, politics, America is a pretty vulgar place obsessed too much with sex, drugs, and outrage. Makes sense we elected Trump. On the other hand my parents' immigrant culture is one that celebrates life, family, community, and is much happier than the current of anger that runs thru mainstream culture these days. America could learn a lot from its immigrants.

It is idiotic to live in the US if you don't love the local culture.

I say it as foreigner that worked a couple years in Texas. I loved some things and disliked just a few. I could go back anytime if they pay enough to compensate the downers.

PS. I miss the barbecue.

'It is idiotic to live in the US if you don't love the local culture. '

A number of people don't have that much of a choice (think people responsible for making sure a new American manufacturing operation is working to the proper standards, or teaching Americans how to handle modern production technology of the variety used by Mercedes or BMW) , and of such people, they cannot know whether they will love the local culture or not.

What does happen, however, is that such people generally know they have a specific time to be in the U.S. (or South Africa, Brasil, China, etc), and they simply count the days down until they return home. Pretty much the way that American military service members do whenever they are stationed somewhere that they do not find all that enjoyable.

Those skilled people do have a choice. Among those who do not have a choice are Iraqis who collaborated with the USA and some refugees.

From the comments on this blog I get the impression there are a considerable number of Americans who intensely dislike their country and regard many or most of their fellow citizens as idiots or evil.

True that, and the percent seems to be on the rise. Ironically they talk about moving to Canada but Canada will not take most of them, perhaps Argentina would.

Mostly conservatives are are disenchanted with American culture, and they will not find relief in Canada. An idiotic soy boy runs the country now. That Canadians voted for that clumsy clown based on surname and pretty fem boy looks is disconcerting. Canada once had a muscular culture.

The culture of the US is divided ~50/50 liberal/conservative, but the media and entertainment industries have a much higher percentage of liberals. This I'm balance creates the impression, among conservatives, that the culture is debased. Note the measure of the split between liberal and conservative is imprecise, so there is considerable variation.

Keep in mind, what you're seeing here is a highly skewed sample.

Also, you'll find that those who seem to intensely dislike their country like it just fine when their political faction is in power.

TL;DR: partisans are assholes.

Well, apart from the historical data, my perspective is undoubtedly influenced by growing up in Northern Virginia. People working for NATO, or an embassy, or something like the IMF or World Bank never intended to become Americans (and broadly speaking, would not be allowed to), even though their children tended to have something of a similar situation.

What you are describing is pretty much the experience of a number of German immigrants since the 1960s. Though the Italians and Spanish can freely travel, work, etc in the EU, the ones born here straddle two worlds basically. The Turks tend to be even more in this situation (for a number of reasons, in significant part due to German mistakes).

But the chauvinism would seem to be the key in these cases - America (certainly until recently) had no problem integrating children of immigrants, and if the children were born in the U.S., they were already American citizens.

While these women enjoy more leisure, they are also less likely to work in high-ranking occupations.

The notion that your "career" is some kind of fundamental human telos is a peculiarity of the late 20th century USA. It will probably go away soon. It seems like something invented by the managerial class to more effectively enslave people. It's really weird when you think about it.

This is commie talk. Go back to work and make me some profit and maybe I'll give you a 2% raise.

More than half of women, 56%, who have a child younger than 18 would ideally like to stay home and care for their house and family,

It is a curiosity. Anyone raising kids knows the one parent at home model works better.

Most jobs are drudgery, that is why you get paid.

Now we are supposed to think we have higher living standards as so many women work.

To be sure, in vast swathes of the US, such as the entire West Coast, most likely most couples have to work.

It is mild hyperbole, but the 120-hours a week two-professional couple is the middle class of LA today, as opposed to dad-works 9-5 model of 50 years ago.

This is a higher standard of living?

Ben - I think working nowadays is also partly consumption. Sure there are still lots of jobs which are unpleasant but most office jobs today are actually pretty easy and entertaining. A perhaps extreme example is College Professor - lots of prestige, admiring students etc, free coffee, not particularly stressful, plenty of time to blog or "research" and so on. Certainly more interesting perhaps than wiping the nose of a three year old.

There’s free coffee!? Let me at it.

The fact that Tyler and Alex have all this time to blog and do their hobbies tells me that I'm a moron for choosing work in private industry.

I may not have written that post but I warmly endorse the sentiments!

The fact that Tyler and Alex have all this time to blog and do their hobbies tells me that I'm a moron for choosing work in private industry.

And Alex even has time to "consult" for a ZMP blockchain startup.

It's not clear to me that spending 9-5 at home with the kids is preferable to being at work.

Whether it is preferable for the mother - and most surveys show most mothers would prefer to spend more time at home - it is better for society as a whole. So society as a whole has an interest in encouraging, even nudging, women to stay at home to raise their own children.

A perhaps extreme example is College Professor...

Depends on where you teach and how much you make.

Harvard? Yale? Berkeley? U. Mich.? Sure.

East BFE State U.? Podunk Community College? Not so much.

Also, review the percentage of university faculty that are tenure-track vs. adjunct and trends in the proportion thereof since the 1980s.

Even an adjunct or a CC instructor doesn't work much compared to the average shmuck in the private sector. They also have access to lots of willing females. It's a good gig if you can get it.

Yes because these middle class professionals have iphones, netflix, facebook, and eat really cheap chalupas. Something your 1950s dad never ever did.

Every couple is different but I've found that my wife is the happiest when working 15-20 hours per week. This is a nice balance: she enjoys the work, fulfills aspirations, exercise the mind, becomes an interesting person, but short hours keep the stress away. What's not to like in this situation?

@Benjamin Cole: if she agrees to stay at home and never become a resentful monster because of it, well......1 in a million case =)

Right, it used to be common, such as in Keynes' day, to believe that in the utopian future people would work about 20 hours per week.

Productivity is high enough we could move to a shorter workweek, though not 20 hours, in most industries without compromising output. Unfortunately we are stuck with a fringe bunch of workaholic types actually running things who can't imagine why anyone doesn't want to be at work 50 hours a week at least.

It is interesting to note that in hunter gatherer societies people work about 15-20 hrs/wk and spend the rest of the time socializing. We likely evolved to live that way. That makes me think we have lost a lot of social capital since the invention of agriculture.

So the centre of Sydney has fewer women in high-ranking occupations then Australia in general?

Nah mate. See, wot ya got in Sydney is a harbour, right? So sheilas came into t'country through the harbours and less of em moved out into into the male heavy rural areas. Course some did, wot with being specifically brought ova fer marriage or service ona property.

They control for urbanisation (significant), but don't report the size of the coefficient. My unsupported guess is the standard error on urbanisation is larger than the coefficient on historical sex ratios.

1) Does the [paywalled] paper control for urban: rural locations? [let's just call the differences between them 'HUGE']

2) What in the world does this have to do with economics?

It is labour economics.

Or sociology.

Internet 101: look for the manuscript/draft version.

From the article: "Postal area-level controls include the sex ratio today and urbanization, taken from the census."

Figure 1 is astonishing: 3 guys per woman on 1830, 1.5 on 1860, 1.2 on 1900. Male deaths from WW1 and WW2 caused temporal male/female balance. A ratio of 1 was achieved until 1970-1980.

The article is paywalled so I can't read it, but do they really make all these conclusions based on a single data point (Australia)? How do they separate the effects of all other Australia specific cultural factors if they don't use data from anywhere else?

We need to have a frank national discussion about seriously redistributing sex. As a younger white guy, I'm happy about many things but one thing I'm not happy about is my sex life. Its only fair if we redistribute money via fiat that we redistribute other things too via fiat. If we put this to a vote, I think it could be a winning campaign issue.

Nevada is the only state where prostitution is legal. You may be onto something here.

'I think it could be a winning campaign issue'

As long as you can stop women from voting. Though Peter Thiel, a man with no apparent use for a woman, might contribute some money to follow up on his belief that women voting was a disaster for capitalist democracy.

Women are more likely to vote for redistribution policies. It is their nature to be more empathetic. Evolution. There is selection pressure for empathetic females.

We need to have a frank national discussion about seriously redistributing friendship. As a younger white guy, I'm happy about many things but one thing I'm not happy about is my lack of friends. Its only fair if we redistribute money via fiat that we redistribute friendship too via fiat. If we put this to a vote, I think it could be a winning campaign issue.

What is interesting is why a shortage of women in an Anglo-Saxon society should have produced positive outcomes when a shortage of women in the Muslim (and by extension North Indian) world has produced honor killings, domestic violence, child marriage etc etc.

Presumably it is the ability in some cultures to compel women to do things while not punishing rape while in others women have more freedom. In both cases there is a reinforcement of the existing trend.

'What is interesting is why a shortage of women in an Anglo-Saxon society should have produced positive outcomes'

Yes, it is from wikipedia, but here is apparently one of the results of a shortage of women in California during the Gold Rush, demonstrating the outcome in that case - 'Described as the "city of bachelors", the disproportionate number of men to women in San Francisco created an environment where homosexuality and gay culture flourished. Barbary Coast was a district where men went to gamble, "satisfy their sexual desires", and pay for sex with women or female impersonators.'

Somehow, one can doubt how positive you would judge that result of a shortage of women in an Anglo-Saxon society.

Interestingly, that effect of an imbalanced sex ratio seems to have also persisted for more than a century and a half. Probably due to the superiority of Anglo- Saxon society, right?

Oh come on. Do you know anything about how women are treated in predominantly Muslim countries? To suggest that the treatment of women in the West is is any way comparable is laughable.

Yes, with very few exceptions, women in European societies were always freer than those in the Middle East. Back during the Crusades Muslim moralists complained about the licentiousness of "Frankish" women in their midst.

While these women enjoy more leisure, they are also less likely to work in high-ranking occupations.

So which is a better deal for women - a good majority of them enjoying more leisure or a small handful of them becoming highly paid professionals (while the rest get humiliating low-paying jobs like men do)?

A better deal for women? What about men? The Cold War was all about maintaining an existing American society and culture in opposition to a deviant model from the commie world. In the fifties it was common to denigrate the Soviet experience, where children spent their time in day care while their mothers worked. Yet, after spending billions of dollars defending the "Leave It To Beaver" lifestyle, the Americanos employ the Soviet methodology in spades, with men pretty much wearing skirts around the house. No wonder American men are laughed at around the world.

I'm not evolutionary biologist, but, in humans, isn't the long run consequence of a male biased sex-ratio an equal sex ratio. Like, after one generation?

Yes, via violent crime and warfare.

I think that's salmon your thinking off. As humans survive after spawning it can take a few generations.

Should this have been published in the Journal of Unsurprising Results?Patriarchal attitudes persist naturally. Is this a justification?

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