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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. The relative s of women and men are changing dramatically in China, but the consequences of these imbalanced sex ratios have received little attention. Consistent with demographic-opportunity theory and sociocultural theory, we find that high sex ratios indicating more men relative to women are associated with an increased likelihood that women marry before age However, high sex ratios are also associated with an increased likelihood that women engage in premarital and extramarital sexual relationships and have had more than one sexual partner, findings consistent with demographic-opportunity theory but inconsistent with sociocultural theory.
A longstanding cultural preference for sons over daughters and sharp reductions in fertility have converged with more proximate factors, including particularly the widespread availability of sex-selective abortion technology, to create a dramatic shortage of girls in China over recent decades Banister ; Cai and Lavely ; Goodkind China will experience an overabundance of adult males relative to adult females as these cohorts age Poston and Glover ; Women China looking for sex, Li, and Feldman This imbalance in the s of adult males and females is anticipated by some observers to have profound and far-reaching consequences Poston and Morrison Others have gone so far as to suggest that this surplus of Chinese males threatens U.
We test hypotheses derived from these theories using data from the Chinese Health and Family Life Survey CHFLSa large, nationally-representative survey of Chinese adults, and information from three Chinese censuses describing the relative s of women and men in their local residential community. Although China has long experienced a shortage of girls Coale ; Coale and Banister ; Hullover recent decades this female deficit has become especially acute Banister Abnormally masculine sex ratios at birth in China have been reported by many observers e. A normal range of the sex ratio at birth of boys per girls is between and ; however, China has been reporting increasingly high sex ratios over recent decades.
The Chinese sex ratio at birth in was By the sex ratio at birth had risen to At higher birth orders three and abovethe sex ratio at birth reached an astounding This degree of imbalance in the s of boys and girls is likely unparalleled in contemporary societies National Research Council Several factors have converged to create these imbalances in the s of young Chinese boys and girls. Like many Asian societies, China has a long history of preferring sons over daughters e. Neither formal government policies restricting sex-selective abortion nor acknowledgement of the ramifications of sex-selective abortion for a future marriage squeeze dissuade parents from selectively aborting female fetuses Chu Of course, the effects of the most recent imbalances in the sex ratio at birth will not be felt fully at the national level for another decade or two.
There is currently substantial age-graded and sub-national geographic variation in adult sex ratios Yi et al. Sex ratios are generally higher in rural areas than cities with towns falling in between Banister ; Hull Some studies suggest higher sex ratios are also associated with economic development and gains in maternal education Banister ; Gu and Roy ; Yi et al.
Regional variation in the rigor with which family planning policies have been imposed has been documented as well Gu et al. The substantial variation in Women China looking for sex sex ratio at birth across provinces and among villages, towns, and cities, coupled with inter-area variation in sex-specific migration streams He and Gobercreates ificant variation in adult sex ratios among the counties of China that are inhabited by the respondents to the CHFLS.
Historical fluctuations in fertility, combined with the traditional age differences between spouses, also contribute to sex ratio imbalances across birth cohorts Porter Demographic-opportunity theory emphasizes the impact of the sheer availability of potential sexual and marital partners on social and demographic behavior. The opportunities to form marital and sexual relationships are determined primarily by the availability of potential partners in the local community South and Lloyd Theoretically, residing in a community containing an abundance of members of the opposite sex increases the likelihood of finding an attractive sexual or marriage partner, thereby hastening the transition to first marriage and increasing the likelihood of premarital, extramarital, and multiple sexual encounters.
In contrast, when few potential partners are available, the transition to marriage will be delayed and perhaps foregone entirely and sexual encounters will be less frequent.
Studies of the impact of imbalanced sex ratios on these partnering behaviors have generally focused on the U. Early studies tended to rely solely on aggregate data, while more recent analyses have taken individuals as the units of the analysis and linked individual behaviors with characteristics of the local neighborhood, community, or other spatially-delimited marriage market. By and large, both strands of research have identified mate availability as a salient influence on family formation behavior.
Female marriage rates and propensities are higher in communities containing more eligible men e. The literature is less consistent regarding the influence of mate availability on the timing of first intercourse and youth sexual activity more generally e. In contrast to the gender-neutral assumption of demographic-opportunity theory, sociocultural theories explicitly acknowledge gender differentials in responses to sex ratio imbalances.
The Sex Ratio Questionis perhaps the most influential sociological statement from this perspective and it has served as a springboard for much of the empirical research in this area. The sociocultural approach builds from a fundamental premise of exchange theory, namely, that relationship quality and commitment are functions of attraction and dependency. Guttentag and Secord begin their argument by describing the effects of imbalanced sex ratios on dyadic power in interpersonal relationships between women and men.
Members of the sex that is in short supply are less dependent on their partners because a greater of alternative Women China looking for sex are available to them. Should they become dissatisfied with their current partners, they can more easily form relationships with other members of the opposite sex. Members of the sex in short supply, then, enjoy greater dyadic power than members of the sex in relative oversupply. The extent to which dyadic power shapes gender-specific behavior is constrained by the distribution of structural power which resides with men in all but a handful of societies Guttentag and Secord Women and men may also respond differently to sex ratio imbalances because of different reproductive motivations and strategies.
As suggested by evolutionary psychology Buss ; Buss and Schmitt ; Feingold ; Stone, Shackelford, and Bussmen may be expected to exploit sex ratio imbalances in their favor by maximizing the production of offspring. Sociocultural theory posits several societal or community-level responses to imbalanced sex ratios. In high-sex-ratio contexts i. Because of the relative scarcity of females, men will treat women with deference and respect Guttentag and Secord Women will marry at an early age. Because men lack the opportunity to form alternative romantic partnerships, divorce will be relatively infrequent.
A markedly different sex-role structure characterizes low sex-ratio populations. Here, the surplus of women and deficit of men will encourage promiscuity among men and discourage their commitment to monogamy Guttentag and Secord Despite having few mates to choose from, the increased competition for these mates will encourage promiscuity among women as well. From the perspective of evolutionary psychology, promiscuous sexual behavior is a strategy women may employ to attract a mate under unfavorable sex ratio conditions Pedersen ; Schmitt ; Stone, Shackelford, and Buss Fewer men and women will marry, and those that do will marry later in life.
Because many women will not be able to find a partner or, if they do, to rely on their partner to maintain existing relationships, more will turn to extrafamilial activities Guttentag and Secord This social context will increase the incidence of premarital and extramarital sexual relations.
These hypotheses, too, have received considerable support. For example, South and Trent find in a cross-national study of countries that the sex ratio is positively related to the percentage of women who are married, Women China looking for sex inversely related to the nonmarital fertility ratio, the female literacy rate, and female labor force participation rate. Also as anticipated by sociocultural arguments, divorce is less common in countries with high adult sex ratios Barber ; Trent and Southand countries with fewer men have higher rates of teen pregnancy Barber ; and single parenthood Barber Consequently, China would appear to be an appropriate setting for testing the sociocultural thesis as well as hypotheses derived from demographic-opportunity theory.
However, with regard to sexual behavior, demographic-opportunity theory posits that women will be more likely to engage in premarital sexual intercourse when men are in greater supply, since these sex ratio imbalances al a copious supply of potential sexual partners.
While this effect may be partially tempered by the impact of the sex ratio on earlier marriage thereby reducing the duration of exposure to premarital sexdemographic-opportunity theory nonetheless anticipates a positive association between the sex ratio and the likelihood of engaging in premarital intercourse.
The sociocultural argument makes an opposite prediction. When women are in short supply i. Opposing hypotheses can also be derived from these two theoretical approaches regarding the likelihood of having multiple sexual partners and engaging in extramarital sex. Figure 1 summarizes the predicted effects of the sex ratio on these outcomes made by demographic-opportunity and sociocultural theory.
The CHFLS computerized survey includes demographic information about the respondents, including marital status and history, Women China looking for sex sex life with current spouse or sexual partner. For this analysis we select only female CHFLS respondents and examine the association between the sex ratio and marital timing and the likelihood of engaging in premarital, multiple-partner, and extramarital sexual intercourse.
Remarried and widowed women are excluded from these analyses because their age at first marriage cannot be determined. For the analyses of the likelihood of engaging in premarital sexual intercourse and of different sexual partners, we select all women ages 20 to And for the analysis of the likelihood of engaging in extramarital sexual intercourse, we select ever-married women ages 20 to To circumscribe marriage markets geographically, we have coded the county xian or county-equivalent, such as an urban district shixiaqucounty-level city xianjishior autonomous county zizhixianfor each of the CHFLS respondents.
For urban districts and county-level cities that are under prefecture-level cities, we use data for the entire prefecture-level city dijishi. For county-level cities that are under the province and for non-city counties, we use data at the county level. We append information from the, and Chinese censuses about the local sex ratio in these communities to the individual CHFLS records.
Because very few Chinese women report having more than two different sexual partners in their lifetime Parish, Laumann, and Mojolaof sexual partners is measured by Women China looking for sex binary variable scored positively for women who report having had two or more partners. Extramarital sex is a binary variable derived from questions asking respondents about the date of their marriage and the timing of various sexual experiences.
This variable is scored 1 if the respondent ever engaged in sexual intercourse outside of marriage and zero otherwise. Although sensitive questions about sexual behavior are often plagued by substantial non-response, fewer than one percent of the CHFLS respondents refused to answer the items used to construct these measures. The primary independent variable for our analysis is the community-level sex ratio—the of men per women—estimated for each respondent when she was age Because the selection of spouses, or sexual partners more generally, is further circumscribed by age, we as to each female respondent a nine-year sex ratio with a two-year staggering of the numerator of males and denominator of females Porter Thus, these ratios are the of men ages 18 to 26 divided by the of women ages 16 to We use data from the full-count China census China Data Center and the one-percent samples from the and censuses China Population and Information Research Center to estimate the value of this sex ratio for each respondent at age Women in the same community are therefore ased different values of the sex ratio depending on the year through in which they turned age We use linear interpolation and extrapolation to make estimates for women who turned age 20 in a non-census year.
Of course, these sex ratios are not likely to be measured completely without error. Sex differentials in census coverage would bias the observed sex ratios. High levels of migration—particularly rural-to-urban migration of unregistered migrants those without local hukou —may lead to census underenumeration. The censuses may miss seasonal migrants. However, for several reasons we believe that measurement error in these sex ratios will not be severe. First, evaluative studies find little evidence of a sex differential in undercount, at least for the census Anderson ; Banister ; Goodkind Second, according to official Chinese policy, even unregistered inhabitants of a given area will be counted as residents of that area if they have lived there for at least six months.
Consequently, only very short-term residents will be intentionally excluded from the census counts. Third, given our focus on the relative s of women and men, rather than the size of the total population, the observed sex ratios will be inaccurate only to the extent that there exists a sex differential in the undercount that also varies across the communities represented in the CHFLS.
Even if a sex differential in census coverage exists, if it does not vary across the communities, then the observed effect of the sex ratio on the outcomes variables will not be affected. For this latter variable, respondents who grew up in a county-level city or larger are considered urban, while those who grew up in a village or town are considered rural. The gender-biased parental interventions that create a surplus of boys and a deficit of girls are also likely to reflect a patriarchal system that devalues the contributions of women, and this devaluation of women may help shape some of the behaviors examined here.
Hence, the observed sex ratios may be partly endogenous to the outcomes we examine.
The main theories guiding our investigation imply that, whatever the proximate cause of imbalanced adult sex ratios i. We address this concern by estimating community fixed-effect logistic regression models Allison Community fixed-effect models, estimated here using conditional logistic regression, relate within-community variation in the sex ratio to within-community variation in the outcome variables. This strategy is possible because women residing in the same community are ased different values of the sex ratio depending on the year through in which they turned age 20, and thus we observe varying levels of mate availability for women even within the same communities.
These models estimate the effect of variation in the sex ratio across age groups while controlling for all potential confounders, such as a patriarchal cultural system that devalues women, that vary across the communities inhabited by the CHFLS respondents. Descriptive statistics weighted and sample descriptions for the dependent variables are shown in Table 1.
Descriptive statistics for the explanatory variables used in the analysis are shown in Table 2. Because the sample size varies across the outcome variables, these statistics are reported for the largest sample size, but the corresponding statistics for the other two Women China looking for sex are not appreciably different.
The mean sex ratio, averaged across communities and single-year birth cohorts, is Thus, on average women tended to face a relative abundance of men in their local marriage market. The mean education level 2. Fifteen percent of the women in the sample report residing in an urban area during childhood. from logistic regression analyses are presented in Table 3.
The four models shown here explore the impact of the sex ratio on the odds of marrying before age 25, of having had premarital sex, of having had two or more sexual partners, and of having engaged in extramarital sex.
For all four outcomes, the coefficient for the sex ratio is positive, statistically ificant at least at a borderline leveland reasonably strong. All models include community fixed effects. Model 1 shows that a one-unit difference in the sex ratio increases the odds that women marry before age 25 by 1. Perhaps a more intuitive metric for assessing the magnitude of this effect is to use recent changes in the sex ratio at birth.
As noted above, between and the sex ratio at birth increased by about 10 males per females from to The coefficients for the birth cohort dummy variables show that women born in the s and s are ificantly more likely to marry before age 25 than are women born in the s the reference category. This decline in age at marriage stems from the rarity of early marriage among the s birth cohort—a result of Maoist-era social policy which enforced delayed marriage beginning in the s Wolf ; Zeng, Vaupel, and Yashin Model 1 also shows that education is ificantly and inversely related with the odds of marrying prior to age Net of the effects of these characteristics, however, women who resided in an urban area at age 14 do not differ ificantly in their marital timing from women who grew up in a rural area.Women China looking for sex
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TOO MANY MEN? SEX RATIOS AND WOMEN’S PARTNERING BEHAVIOR IN CHINA