» » Too Many Women?: The Sex Ratio Question

Too Many Women?: The Sex Ratio Question ebook

by Paul F. Secord,Marcia Guttentag

Many Women? is useful for courses on the family and social change . Secord is Professor of Psychology and Education at the University of Houston.

Many Women? is useful for courses on the family and social change but is a necessary reference for those interested in social changes in relationships. The argument is soundly convincing, the case artfully presented, and the book designed to generate considerable interest. Bibliography and references are more than adequate. book should be read for the originality of its authors' ideas and the promise of their hypotheses. - Signs, Summer 1987.

Too Many Women? book. basic premise of this provocative book is a startling one - that sex. Details (if other): Cancel. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Too Many Women?: The Sex Ratio Question. by. Marcia Guttentag, Paul F. Secord.

Of all published articles, the following were the most read within the past 12 months. On the Relation Between Sociology and Ethics. Eviction and the Reproduction of Urban Poverty. Racial Profiling and Use of Force in Police Stops: How Local Events Trigger Periods of Increased Discrimination. Genetic Options: The Impact of Genetic Ancestry Testing on Consumers’ Racial and Ethnic Identities.

Birger points to a relatively overlooked book, Too Many Women?:The Sex Ratio Question, which was written by professors Marcia Guttentag and Paul Secord, and published in 1983. Guttentag and Secord noticed there was an over-supply of young, single women when the Women's Liberation movement and the sexual revolution blossomed. are both rooted in a statistical over-supply of women," writes Birger.

Guttentag, Marcia; Secord, Paul .

Guttentag, Marcia; Secord, Paul F. Publication date.

The Sex Ratio Question. Secord

The Sex Ratio Question.

Sex Differences May Indeed Exist for 3-D Navigational Abilities: But Was Sexual Selection Responsible?

Patricia S. Mann - 1986 - Ethics 96 (4):885-. Women, Nature, and the Suffrage:Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America 1848-1869. Ellen Carol DuBois; Separate Spheres: The Opposition to Women's Suffrage in Britain. Sex Differences May Indeed Exist for 3-D Navigational Abilities: But Was Sexual Selection Responsible? Peter Frost - 1998 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (3):443-444.

Best Answer: Too Many Women? The Sex Ratio Question. Marcia Guttentag Paul F. This explanation was introduced by sociologist Marcia Guttentag and psychologist Paul Secord who argued that women’s power in intimate relationships increases with their scarcity. So if there is a scarcity of women, they get what they want – a husband who is fully committed to them and their children. Guttentag was inspired by the observation that popular songs of the 1970s took a very different tone than those of The Magic Flute.

Too Many Women?: The Sex Ratio Question was the brainchild of psychologist Marcia Guttentag, a professor at Harvard University.

Too Many Women?: The Sex Ratio Question was the brainchild of psychologist Marcia Guttentag, a professor at Harvard University

`The basic premise of this provocative book is a startling one - that sex ratios among people on the marriage market have profound consequences for a wide variety of attitudes, values, and behaviors, from sexual mores and behavior to shifts in economic power...the authors share with the reader a wealth of fascinating data and information...a book which is...fascinating, scholarly, provocative and exceedingly well-written.′ -- Canadian Journal of Sociology, Vol 10 No 2

`Written by social scientists with training and considerable publication in social psychology, this book is a unique contribution to the literature on women, sex roles, and the history of relations between men and women. No similar book is available to

This book had an enormous impact on my own research and book. Too Many Women? is pioneering piece of scholarship that explores how lopsided gender ratios affect not only dating and marriage but the very structure of society. I am truly indebted to her (and to Paul Secord for completing the book after Guttentag's premature death), and I hope that DATE-ONOMICS shines new light on Marcia Guttentag's brilliance.
WHAT "TOO MANY WOMEN" IS ABOUT: In 1975, Marcia Guttentag wondered what if there were some populations with more of one gender than another. "What," she wrote, "would the social consequences be?"

The sex ratio (or gender ratio) as computed in "Too Many Women?" considers first the marrying, child-bearing population usually 20 to 40 years old. The number of men in this population is divided by the number of women, then multiplied by 100. Thus, if there are 110 men to every 100 women in a population, the sex ratio is 110. The choice of which is numerator and which is denominator is the researcher's, though for convenience, it is usually men as numerator, women as denominator.

As a starting point, the book on page 15, Figure 1.1 shows the sex ratios for the United States from 1790 to 1975, using U.S. Census data. Until 1950, men outnumbered women in the marrying-age population, after which the ratio dropped steeply to 1960. Since then the sex ratio has climbed to the current ratio of about 100: approximately equal numbers of marrying age men & women.

Similar data were extracted and extrapolated by Guttentag and Secord for classical Athens & Sparta, medieval Europe, Orthodox Jews, and Frontier, Southern, and Victorian women in the U.S. Their research method then used qualitative reports including an analysis of Talmudic statements regarding the roles of men & women and quantitative data such as age of marital partners and women's employment to answer the question, "What would the social consequences be?"

THEIR ANSWERS: Their analyses are given in four information-rich chapters in the section titled "Clues from the Past" and four chapters titled "Observations from Recent Times." These recent observations include

"From Sex Ratios to Sex Roles"
"Sex Roles and Family Among White Americans"
"Sex Roles and Family Among Black Americans"
"Future Trends in Sex Role and Family"

The central conclusion is that unequal ratios make for unequal roles. More specifically, where men are plentiful and suitable women are scarce, the traditional domestic sex roles are upheld. Writing of the South, for example, they comment

"Special emphasis was placed on submission to authority...deference, respect and obedience toward the males were required....women were seen as incompetent in affairs of the world outside the home." (p. 142).

In contrast, when the sex ratio was low and women notably outnumbered men, women were liberated: economically, socially, sexually, educationally, within broad social parameters. The 1946 song from "Annie Get Your Gun,"----"The girl that I marry will have to be, as soft and as pink as a nursery; the girl I call my own, will wear satin and ribbon and smell of cologne" was in part wishful thinking among returning GIs, though the behavior held for the 50s and early 60s, but the times they were a-changing.


--"Too Many Women" is a classic in the systematic study of how a demographic factor such as sex ratio can be associated with a wide swath of behaviors & social attitudes. It is still read today and often referred to in popular as well as research discussions of gender roles

--Methodologically, it represents an interesting contribution blending qualitative and quantitative analyses to answer a significant question. The methodology would seem limited today in relying on a catch-as-catch-can group of case instances compared to more systematic sampling, and in not trying to disprove apparent conclusions as rigorously as might be done now. However, the findings have stood up quite well and for 1975, the approach was in many ways leading edge.

--It is readable as a novel and well-written.

--There's a prediction that can be checked against our current social patterns: clear, unequivocal, and firm. I will not be a spoiler in this review, but readers may find special interest in comparing their prediction, based on chapters 1 through 8 with Guttentag and Secord's Chapter 9.

OTHER: The book includes a good index, there are detailed notes for each chapter and a preface by Secord, who put this book together following Guttentag's too early death in 1977.

Readers should be aware that while some graphs do not exaggerate the ordinate axis, many omit the zero point of the x/y crossing and show units that highlight or possibly exaggerate differences. This would not be considered good practice today in social science research but it sure "tells the story."

OVERALL: Highly recommended for the reasons given. "Too Many Women?" needs to be supplemented by the considerable research published since 1983 on gender ratios, such as Robert Epstein's Oct. 2012 article in Discover. None-the-less, readers may appreciate this book as a distinguished, ground-breaking study aimed at promoting women's equality.
Anthropologists state that men are naturally promiscuous seeking pleasure with fertile (sexy) women. And, women want to nest with (wealthy) men of upper social standing. This is nature's way of propagating our specie. Guttentag and Secord present another theory that explains more. A popular article in The Atlantic (All the Single Ladies, November 2011) has revived interest in their 30 year old theory.

The two social scientists developed a powerful explanatory model. At its foundation are two driving powers. The first one is whatever sex is in short supply has more "dyadic" power as they have more choices of mates. The second power, structural power, is related to the sex that is dominant within the social infrastructure (Government, Justice, business, etc...). Throughout history, men have controlled structural power.

The coauthors' brilliant insight is in figuring out how the interaction of dyadic and structural powers influences a society's culture. Men's structural power is a given. And, when women have the dyadic power (sex ratio > 100, shortage of women) you will have a traditional society with familiar roles. Even though women have more mating choices, men will counter women's dyadic power with their own structural power to restrict women's potential sexual freedom. In such a traditional society, women's virginity before marriage will be praised and so will marriage, motherhood, and loyalty. Morality will be severe and restrictive. At such time, the arts often promote romantic love and devotion to an idealized woman. However, when men have the dyadic power (sex ratio < 100, surplus of women) you will have a libertine society. Men and women will be more promiscuous. Marriage will be often derided. And, the arts will reflect this libertine culture.

Another counterintuitive finding of the authors concerns the role of women beyond their reproductive role. For women, what is good for mating is not so good for independent economic opportunities and vice verse. Thus, when there is a shortage of women; women have very good opportunities for mating (marrying a man of much higher status). But, in such a high sex ratio society women will be limited to their traditional role of subordinated spouse with few economic opportunities. However, when there is a shortage of men just the reverse occurs. Mating opportunities are not so good for women. Yet, they are less stuck in traditional role of subordinated spouse and mother since they often can't assume those roles. And, they have more freedom to become economically independent. Feminist movements and career opportunities for women are associated in time and place when the sex ratio is low (surplus of women).

The "sex ratio" is the single number that captures all those social implications. The latter means the number of men divided by the number of women (often focused on matable age) times a 100. As mentioned, a high sex ratio is > 100 indicating a surplus of men or a shortage of women. A low sex ratio is < 100 indicating a shortage of men and surplus of women. In a nutshell, for women a high sex ratio means good mating opportunities but poor economic opportunities. Meanwhile, a low sex ratio means the reverse. Thus, a high sex ratio is not necessarily better than a low sex ratio for women. It is a trade off between mating and economic opportunities.

The authors have grounded their theories in numerous historical examples. They compare the fate of women during the Greek antiquity by looking at the status of women in Athens (a high sex ratio society) vs Sparta (low sex ratio). They found that in Sparta "women had much more economic and legal independence than Athenian women." They looked at early Medieval Europe (high sex ratio) vs later Medieval Europe (low sex ratio). They observed that chivalry, romantic love, and idealized vision of women prevailed during the early Medieval Europe. And, such values progressively disappeared as the sex ratio dropped. Also, the late Medieval Europe saw several early feminist movements flourish (typical of low sex ratio). On a relative basis, a high sex ratio society will provide better mating opportunities but worse economic opportunities for women than a low sex ratio society.

Sex ratios deviate from 100 for several reasons. Those include sex ratios measured for different age groups (often focused on the mating years) that can be affected by many external factors. Those include wars, migration patterns, famine and pandemic with sexes experiencing different survival rates. Also, at birth sex ratios can deviate because of female infanticide.

When the authors reviewed Colonial and early America, the latter societies often diverged from their model. Here, the authors explore the moderation of the sex ratio influence by other causal factors such as: religion, culture, slavery, and open societies (opposite of traditional societies).

They observed that far western frontier societies were associated with very high sex ratios due to more men moving out further West than women. But, those high sex ratio societies were unlike earlier ones the authors reviewed. They were not "traditional" societies. Instead, they were open and unstable ones. Thus, men's structural power was weaker. As a result, women not only experienced good mating opportunities with much choice (dyadic power). But, they also benefitted to a nearly equal access to many economic opportunities unlike "traditional" high sex ratio societies.

Midwestern frontier societies were associated with near equilibrium sex ratios (110). The pioneers in those areas moved with their entire family to farm the land. As the authors state: "while single women were much in demand and intensely courted, their role changed drastically after marriage." This is because of the scarcity of labor, women did back breaking work on the land, in addition to the mothering, cooking, maintaining the household.

The South behaved steadily as a high sex ratio society even when its sex ratio became moderate to low. This was because of cultural reasons and circumstances. Slavery removed women from any work duties. The South was a more traditional society with powerful plantation owners (with much structural power). Consequently, even when the reasonably moderate sex ratios suggested women should have had more economic opportunities; they did not. The South had its own romantic culture, not unlike the medieval one, idealizing the "Southern Belle."

New England was a settled low sex ratio society. But, the usual libertine tendencies of low sex ratio butted against the Victorian culture of that era. As a result, women's sexual freedoms were curbed just as in a high sex ratio society. Actually, a double standard of women emerged with idealized married Fair Maidens in the romantic tradition of high sex ratio societies and unattached devilish Dark Ladies. Men readily had affairs with them (the libertine side of low sex ratio still expresses itself). But, the Victorian morals blamed the seducing Dark Ladies more than the men. However, New England did follow the low sex ratio archetype in economic matters as women did have more opportunities for financial independence. And, a feminist movement started.

Next, the authors move on to more recent modern times by studying white Americans and black (authors term) Americans. The data they had at the time was the 1960 and 1970 census data. They also used the Census Bureau demographic projections from 1976 to 2050 to derive their own forecast of sex ratio trends through 1990.

When studying white Americans, they noticed that between 1960 and 1970, the overall sex ratio had markedly dropped. And, they went really granular and computed the sex ratios for numerous women age cohorts vs men age cohorts two years older. They called those resulting sex ratios marital opportunity index (MOI). The latter would measure marital opportunities for very specific age subset of the overall women's population. By doing so, they uncovered that marital opportunities for women of all mating age cohorts were far worse (lower) in 1970 vs 1960. They also observed the poor outlook for educated women with a college or grad degree. Using their demographic projections up to 1990, they were able to differentiate the marital opportunities for various women age cohort. Young women (under 29) future prospect appeared much better than for older women (29+).

Contrasting the early 1960s vs 1970s situation for whites, would American culture move from a high sex ratio to a low sex ratio one (from morality to promiscuity)? And, indeed the American culture morphed just as predicated by the model. Men became more promiscuous because of a larger pool of available women. Women became more promiscuous as a result of getting rejected and becoming afraid of commitment. Whites remained single longer, divorce rates rose, and more divorced did not remarry. The white illegitimate birth ratio, a marker of extra marital affairs, steadily increased from 1950 to 1975. The authors also measured the moral values embedded within novels in the 1950s vs the 1970s; and they uncovered the progressive switch from moral values to libertine ones. Practice of casual sex and diversity of related practices increased markedly over the same time period (relying on the work of Hunt following after Kinsey's). This was especially the case in college where the culture radically changed.

Interestingly enough, the authors never mention the phrases "the sexual revolution" (until the very last page in passing) or "the college hook up culture" as those sound bites probably emerged after the fact. And, for the authors society does not have an abrupt morality vs promiscuity switch on or off. Thus, there was no revolution but instead a seamless progressive transition. Throughout history, people have behaved in certain ways given their respective marital opportunities. Sometimes, behavior is less predictable because of strong cultural overlay (Victorian Era, Wild West open society). But, this was not the case in recent modern times when behavior closely followed their model.

The chapter on the whites also covers the increasing opportunities for women to seek higher education and be gainfully employed. This is also an offshoot of a low sex ratio (or low MOI) society.

When the authors move on to the black population during the 1960s and 1970s, they uncover a population with an unusually and chronically low sex ratio. This low sex ratio is due to several factors including: i) a much larger proportion of black male being in the armed force overseas and being counted separately; ii) a large proportion of black males being transient and undercounted by the census; iii) a high mortality rate among black infants, children, and adolescents; and iv) a much lower sex ratio at birth common with lower income strata. The data indicates low MOIs for black women of all relevant age groups. And, the authors' projections indicate this situation will remain unchanged through 1990. Additionally, marital opportunities for black women are further affected by the large proportion of black males in prisons (this factor is not captured in the MOIs).

Given the blacks low sex ratio society, the authors confirm all the usual mentioned implications of a libertine culture promoted by the males. The authors indicate this libertine culture has nothing to do with what sociologists imply by mentioning the "black culture" or "matriarchal culture." The only implication of being black is the related racial discrimination (from 50s to 70s) resulting in low income that render long term commitments like marriage even more unlikely. This ultimately compounds the effect of the mentioned low sex ratio. The combination of demographic (low sex ratio) and socioeconomic (low income) factors have caused a rising rate of illegitimate births and rising % of single mothers within this population. According to the authors, if whites experienced similar conditions their resulting behavior would be similar.

Within the last chapter, the authors predict future trends. Interestingly enough, they express rebutting views to their whole sex ratio theory. This is because they consider that modern American society is morphing towards a culture that will lessen the impact of sex ratios (whether high or low). This is because the advent of effective contraception, safe abortion, and greater women's civil rights that gives women greater control over their bodies and sexuality. Just as important, is the advent of women in college, grad schools, in the workplace, and Government. In other words, the male structural power that was based historically on superior physical strength is now lessening. In a service oriented society knowledge, skills, and cooperation are far more important than muscle strength. In such a society, given a high sex ratio males will not be able to curb women's behavior under a morality umbrella so easily. And, women will be able to exploit their dyadic power with more abandon. The double standard will diminish. Additionally, men will not be able to restrict women to subordinated roles of housewife and mother as women will have increasing opportunities in the job marketplace equipped with as good or superior education as men. This entails a change in the classic gender role with a sharing in decision making and undertaking of household chores. Thus, American society is shifting towards a permanent gender equalization of rights which will counter the effect of sex ratios. However, sex ratios will remain very influential among cultures at a different stage of development and gender right equalization.

Following up on the authors work by looking at current US Census figures is interesting. The 2010 US Census shows sex ratios at all ages getting increasingly in balance vs the 2000 Census. In 2010, the sex ratio drops below 100 only beyond 44 years of age which conveys a rather balanced sex ratio during the prime mating years. Also, for all the former concern regarding the marital prospect of highly educated women the data conveys a less than alarming picture. In 1950, the % of white women ever-married with a college degree or higher was 20 percentage points lower than for other women. By 2007, that gap was pretty much eliminated. For black women, college educated ones experience a higher marriage rate than the ones without college education.
Too Many Women?: The Sex Ratio Question ebook
Paul F. Secord,Marcia Guttentag
Social Sciences
EPUB size:
1572 kb
FB2 size:
1928 kb
DJVU size:
1389 kb
SAGE Publications, Inc; Second Printing edition (March 1, 1983)
280 pages
Other formats:
rtf lrf lit doc
© 2018-2020 Copyrights
All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy | DMCA | Contacts