Cultural Anthropology

What is the sex ratio paradox?
Answered by Discovery Fit & Health
  • Discovery Fit & Health

    Discovery Fit & Health

  1. Because men are more violent than women, you might think that in populations where there are more men than women you'd see a higher rate of violence. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. In populations where there are more women than men, the rate of violence is higher. That means proportionally more men in these populations commit violence than the men who live in communities in which the ratio is either equal, or in which there are more men than women.

    The ratios of the sexes in a given population can vary over time. For example, war in a country or region can cause disproportionate ratios of men to women, at least in particular age groups. In the United States, there were more men than women until World War II, when the reverse became true. Eventually, the population evened out somewhat and now gender ratios fluctuate. That's evidenced by looking at sex and age: In 2000, there were nearly 105 male residents under age five for every 100 female residents, but there were about 82 men for every 100 women among those age 65 to 74 years old [source: Vandello]. In other times and cultures, the ratios have been even more one-sided. Practices such as female infanticide in India and rural China led to large shortages of female members of the countries' populations.

    One potential explanation for the fact that violence is lower when ratios of men are equal or higher is that in communities where there are more women than men, there is more family disruption. There are more single-parent families headed by women in these populations, and the lack of male role models may contribute to a cycle of crime and violence. It's also possible that when there are fewer men than women in a given community or society, women may tolerate more abuse because they feel they lack choices in male partners. There are many variables related to culture, age and outside factors that make it difficult to say with certainty that there is any single cause for the sex ratio paradox or that it always exists.

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