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  #1  
Old 07-07-2012, 04:42 PM
Standarduser Standarduser is offline
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How didnt women came to outnumber men throughtout history?

I just thought about it. Women have a longer life expectency. Women were at home at most times, while men were at hazardous jobs, fought wars, been to bar fights, hunting trips and much more dangerous crap.

So how is it that women didnt come to outnumber men in antique, medieval and pre modern times? Was it infanticide?
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  #2  
Old 07-07-2012, 04:44 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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Until some point less than 150 years ago, a significant portion of women died in childbirth.
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  #3  
Old 07-07-2012, 04:48 PM
mozchron mozchron is offline
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Human sex ratios at birth are skewed toward males as well.
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Old 07-07-2012, 05:33 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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And think about it: How would a few years extra life expectancy significantly skew the ratio? If you were looking at the ratio of men to women in the 80+ year old demographic, you'd probably find a pretty significant difference.

But as already noted, women didn't always have longer average lifespans. That is a fairly recent phenomenon, thanks to better medical practices during pregnancy and delivery.
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  #5  
Old 07-07-2012, 05:36 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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By far it is because childbirth is extremely risky. And up until recently, aside from waging war, men didn't really work much more dangerous jobs than women. In fact through most of human history very few men were warriors, most were farmers. Most of their wives were farmers. There was some division of labor along gender lines, but by and large up until quite recently in our history the women worked the fields and did hard work just like the men, so their lives weren't really much easier.

There's a scene in The Good Earth by Pearl Buck (set in early 20th century China) in which Wang Lung's wife is out working the fields with him while pregnant. When it is time to deliver the child, she stops working to give birth, but then she's up right away cleaning herself and the baby and is back working the fields very quickly (with the child with her suckling.) Pearl Buck was obviously writing a work of fiction but by and large there is little reason to doubt that was common in an agrarian society. People farming for their livelihoods who live harvest to harvest simply cannot stop working for months because they are pregnant, and they certainly can't stop working after birth.

Hunting was rare for most men for a long period of time. In hunter-gatherer societies men would of course hunt while women gathered (although that standard stereotype is said with a ton of known exceptions), but in agrarian societies few people hunted. For example in agrarian Europe from the fall of the Roman empire up until the late Enlightenment hunting was almost exclusively the provenance of the wealthy land owners, peasants didn't get to hunt often. In many cases it was illegal for a peasant to hunt, punishable by death.
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  #6  
Old 07-07-2012, 06:12 PM
kunilou kunilou is offline
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Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
Until some point less than 150 years ago, a significant portion of women died in childbirth.
In fact if you look in old cemetaries it's not all that rare to find family plots where the husband outlived several wives, each of whom died in childbirth.
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  #7  
Old 07-07-2012, 06:48 PM
lisiate lisiate is offline
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To add some numbers (from wikipedia's maternal mortality page):

Historical Maternal mortality ratios are estimated at about 1,000 per 100,000 live births.
Current Maternal Mortality ratio in Sierra Leone is 2,000 per 100,000 live births (2%).
Lifetime risk of maternal death for women in sub-Saharan Africa is 1 in 16.

A lifetime risk of maternal death of around 1 in 20 in pre-modern times would dwarf the effects of violent deaths among men. Something like 5 per cent of women (2.5% of tooal population)dying before age 40 from child birth is comparable to the UK's losses in World War One (2.19 % of total population) happening all the time.
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  #8  
Old 07-07-2012, 07:40 PM
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You also need to realise that in almost every society in human history, there was a very strong parental bias for male children, resulting in much higher female childhood mortality rates. Because men did die at higher rates, if the natural ratio was maintained population would have grown out of control. Families specifically and societies in general society couldn't afford to allow the sex ratios to become unbalanced, so they deliberately took steps to maintain it.

In many cases, as in Ancient Rome or amongst traditional Australian Aborigines, girls were simply killed outright at birth. That's not to say that boys were not also routinely killed at birth, but far, far more girls were killed. It's common in societies where this is permitted for first-time parents to kill every girl born until they produce a boy. only after they have a surviving boy over two years old would they even consider allowing a daughter to live.

In other societies, such as large parts of modern India, outright infanticide is technically unacceptable, but the mortality rate for female children is encouraged through neglect. Boys get better food, more medical care, are always given any food, clothing etc that is limited in preference to girls.

The result is that, in most societies, although the birth rates of males and females slightly favours males, the population skews strongly in favour of males until about the age of 10. After that point the increased death rates of males starts to reduce the skew.

Even in modern India, where by no means a majority of people practice selective neglect of female infants, boys outnumber girls by about 10% before the age of 10. In societies where selective neglect was universal this would have resulted in 20% more boys, and in societies with deliberate infanticide the evidence suggests that there may have been twice as many 9-yo boys as girls.
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  #9  
Old 07-07-2012, 08:16 PM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is offline
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Originally Posted by mozchron View Post
Human sex ratios at birth are skewed toward males as well.
And before birth; males are more likely to die before birth than females. More males are conceived than females because males are more likely to die young, and an even gender balance is generally favored by evolution.
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  #10  
Old 07-07-2012, 10:39 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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Even among societies familiar to us, leaving babies out to die was common until more recently than you may think. It was only in 1741 that the Foundling Hospital was established in London so that there was a place to put babies found left out to die:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundling_Hospital
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  #11  
Old 07-07-2012, 11:03 PM
Lamia Lamia is offline
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Others have offered good explanations for why more women might have been dying young than the OP assumed, but there have also been plenty of times/places where women did outnumber men. Heck, the current US population is 50.8% female, which isn't much more than 50% but it does mean that women in the US outnumber men.

The first cite I could find quickly regarding historic gender ratios is from Wikipedia, which says the first census of England in 1801 found that women were in the majority in every county in the country.
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  #12  
Old 07-08-2012, 04:46 AM
Donnerwetter Donnerwetter is online now
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One interesting aspect: It is a well established fact (though not yet fully explained) that in the years following a particularly bloody war, the ratio of newborn males increases.

For instance in Germany after WW I, the rate of newborn males vs. newborn females was 108:100. This rate slowly decreased until 1939 only to rise again to 108:100 in 1946. It took more than a decade for the rate to decrease again to 106:100 in 1960.

Historical data for the UK, France and Belgium show the same phenomenon. See also:

Sex ratio of live births, England and Wales, 1838-1998

http://www.radstats.org.uk/no074/article4a.htm

(from the SDMB archive)
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  #13  
Old 07-08-2012, 07:49 AM
Rubixcube Rubixcube is offline
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Originally Posted by Martin Hyde View Post
In fact through most of human history very few men were warriors, most were farmers.
I wouldn't say most, proper humans have been running around for about 200,000 years, the neolithic revolution occurred about 10,000 years ago. In numbers you're probably right but not in years.
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  #14  
Old 07-08-2012, 07:53 AM
AK84 AK84 is online now
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Originally Posted by Blake View Post
In many cases, as in Ancient Rome or amongst traditional Australian Aborigines, girls were simply killed outright at birth. That's not to say that boys were not also routinely killed at birth, but far, far more girls were killed. It's common in societies where this is permitted for first-time parents to kill every girl born until they produce a boy. only after they have a surviving boy over two years old would they even consider allowing a daughter to live.

.
Cite?
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  #15  
Old 07-08-2012, 08:17 PM
Blake Blake is offline
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Originally Posted by AK84 View Post
Cite?
Seriously? A cite that people such as ancient romans and Aborigines practiced sex selective infanticide?

http://books.google.com/books?id=sRn...page&q&f=false


http://olemiss.academia.edu/NancyLWi...paperback_2002

http://bioanthropology.huji.ac.il/pdf/Faerman1998.pdf

http://www.wou.edu/las/socsci/histor...holsThesis.pdf
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  #16  
Old 07-08-2012, 08:23 PM
Shalmanese Shalmanese is offline
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For creatures that practice sexual selection, evolution forces sex ratios to converge upon a 50:50 sexually active population in the long term. Say you had a society that was 60 females and 40 males. The females need to produce a collective 100 babies to maintain replacement rate which means each male gene is going to spread to 2.5 babies on average. If there's a mutation that preferentially selects for male children, it's going to spread until the sex ratios even out. Similarly, preferential selection for female children will select out until the gender ratios even out.

edit: this is known as Fisher's Principle

Last edited by Shalmanese; 07-08-2012 at 08:24 PM.. Reason: added cite.
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  #17  
Old 07-08-2012, 08:27 PM
Shalmanese Shalmanese is offline
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nm

Last edited by Shalmanese; 07-08-2012 at 08:31 PM.. Reason: nm
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  #18  
Old 07-08-2012, 11:21 PM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is offline
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Originally Posted by Lamia View Post
The first cite I could find quickly regarding historic gender ratios is from Wikipedia, which says the first census of England in 1801 found that women were in the majority in every county in the country.
I wonder if the timing of that census may have reflected (comparatively) recent losses of British men in the Revolutionary War (in which Wikipedia notes that somewhere on the order of 40,000 British servicemen died), as well as in the wars against France in the final years of the 18th century.
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  #19  
Old 07-09-2012, 03:37 AM
AK84 AK84 is online now
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Originally Posted by Blake View Post
The fact that societies practiced sex selective infanticides is not in dispute. What is in dispute is what you said

Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake
It's common in societies where this is permitted for first-time parents to kill every girl born until they produce a boy. only after they have a surviving boy over two years old would they even consider allowing a daughter to live.
You are saying that parents would kill every girl born to them until they had a 2 year old son, that is above and beyond sex selective infanticide simplicitor, which is what your cities show. Or have I missed something?
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  #20  
Old 07-09-2012, 04:11 AM
dtilque dtilque is offline
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Originally Posted by Blake View Post
Even in modern India, where by no means a majority of people practice selective neglect of female infants, boys outnumber girls by about 10% before the age of 10. In societies where selective neglect was universal this would have resulted in 20% more boys, and in societies with deliberate infanticide the evidence suggests that there may have been twice as many 9-yo boys as girls.
India has moved into the modern age with their prejudice against female children. It's quite common for Indian parents-to-be to find out the sex of the fetus via ultrasound and preferentially abort the females. It's illegal, but widely practiced anyway.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_foeticide_in_India
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  #21  
Old 07-09-2012, 08:29 AM
Septima Septima is offline
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This sort of thing is really difficult to pin down, since we don't really have death records for 99% of the population. But lets break it down with some reasonable, but not confirmable numbers.

At birth: slightly more males, but male babies are more prone to die in infancy, so this evens out.

Warfare: up until the invention of the citizen army, warfare just plain wasn't that deadly. Actual combat claimed very few lives: the big killer of armies was actually disease, which spread very easily to civilian populations in the area. Invading armies would also kill, rape and plunder at will, and more civilians than fighting men died in any given war. So yes, more men died in war, but not by much. Women died in large numbers because of war, even if they didn't die in battle.

Childbirth: The best numbers at the moment indicate that only about one in 50 births was fatal, but since women had so many babies, 1 on 8 could expect to die in this way. That's still better than the 1/2 number that gets tossed around sometimes.

Disease: killed all equally.

Starvation: Kills slightly more men, actually.

But the best answer is simply that most people just died from whatever, and no one had time to outnumber anyone else.
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  #22  
Old 07-09-2012, 11:26 AM
Anne Neville Anne Neville is offline
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Originally Posted by Septima View Post
Starvation: Kills slightly more men, actually.
Is this true in every society? I've heard of societies where the men eat first, then the women get what is left over. If something like that were the custom, I'd think more women would die of starvation than men.
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  #23  
Old 01-13-2013, 03:23 PM
Septima Septima is offline
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Can't believe I missed this, but the zombie isn't that old.

Yeah, in some societies, that is the case, but it's hardly the norm (in northern europe/scandinavia, women controlled the food stores, so there's that).

I was talking about chronic low-level starvation, or short term catastrophic starvation. Apparently, women are slightly better at surviving that sort of thing. Better fat storage is the only explanation I heard, but in general, the men get sick and die faster than women in starvation situations. Not by much, though.
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Old 01-13-2013, 04:31 PM
njtt njtt is offline
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Originally Posted by Lamia View Post
Others have offered good explanations for why more women might have been dying young than the OP assumed, but there have also been plenty of times/places where women did outnumber men. Heck, the current US population is 50.8% female, which isn't much more than 50% but it does mean that women in the US outnumber men.

The first cite I could find quickly regarding historic gender ratios is from Wikipedia, which says the first census of England in 1801 found that women were in the majority in every county in the country.
This.

Very often, when we are actually able to find out, women do outnumber men, slightly, in a population. They do now, in our current society. Of course, we don't have to go back very far in history for it to become impossible to get sufficiently reliable figures, but, absent special circumstances such as systematic female infanticide (which certainly has not been a universal human practice) it is not unlikely that this has been true for most societies. There are things, such as childbirth, that kill only women, but there are also things, like war, hunting accidents, and heart disease, that regularly kill more men. Currently these factors are equilibrating out to a situation in which women slightly outnumber men. I see no particular reason to think it would usually have skewed the other way in most historical societies.

I wonder, though, if what the OP is really asking is why the slight population advantage held by women (as things are now, and have been for a while) does not cumulate over the generations, leading to ratios more and more skewed toward the female as time goes by? (I am sure there is a very good, obvious reason why the notion of cumulation is comletely daft, but my brain is just too tired to put its finger on it at the moment.)
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  #25  
Old 01-13-2013, 04:49 PM
Peremensoe Peremensoe is offline
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Women give birth to both boys and girls.
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  #26  
Old 01-13-2013, 05:15 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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It's obviously impossible for the ratio of men and women to become too imbalanced, regardless of whether men or women are more likely to live longer. If there are too many more men/women than women/men, those men/women don't have children. They simply don't have any effect on future generations.
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  #27  
Old 01-13-2013, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by kunilou View Post
In fact if you look in old cemetaries it's not all that rare to find family plots where the husband outlived several wives, each of whom died in childbirth.
I have a family geneology that traces my father's mother's family back to the 1300s in Germany. There are many, many examples of this.
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  #28  
Old 01-13-2013, 08:08 PM
Septima Septima is offline
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Sure, but that's because widows were less likely to marry than widowers, not because there was a surplus of either gender.
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  #29  
Old 01-13-2013, 08:51 PM
ratatoskK ratatoskK is online now
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The men kept killing us.
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  #30  
Old 01-13-2013, 09:23 PM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is offline
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Originally Posted by lisiate View Post
A lifetime risk of maternal death of around 1 in 20 in pre-modern times would dwarf the effects of violent deaths among men.
Actually I understand that in primitive, pre-rule-of-law cultures the rate of death by violence for men can reach as high as 90%.

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Disease: killed all equally.
In fact, women (and most female mammals) have more aggressive, effective immune systems. Women resist both infectious disease and parasites better than men. The culprit seems to be testosterone; female animals with high testosterone like female hyenas have weaker immune systems as males do.

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Originally Posted by Septima View Post
I was talking about chronic low-level starvation, or short term catastrophic starvation. Apparently, women are slightly better at surviving that sort of thing. Better fat storage is the only explanation I heard, but in general, the men get sick and die faster than women in starvation situations. Not by much, though.
Actually as I recall the difference in survival rates for starvation and cold between the genders is pretty large once you factor out pregnant women*. One example I've seen used of this is the Donner Party, where the survivors were disproportionately female. Including the people who tried to escape on snowshoes; almost all the men died, all the women lived.

Quote:
Of the 15 members of the snowshoe party, 8 of the 10 men who set out died (Stanton, Dolan, Graves, Murphy, Antonio, Fosdick, Luis and Salvador), but all 5 of the women survived
*I've heard of including pregnant women on occasion being used as a tool to manipulate statistics to make women look weaker/sicklier than they are. Include them without mentioning it and it skews the statistics against female robustness for obvious reasons, while at the same time you can claim that you didn't actually make up or distort the statistics. Technically.
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  #31  
Old 01-13-2013, 11:34 PM
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Without birth control, repeated childbirth and breast feeding is going to weaken women and make them more susceptible to disease and infection. In addition, the women were typically anemic from repeated childbirth, and pregnancy can leach calcium stores from the mothers' bones, causing increased tooth loss. Lack of teeth contribute to malnutrition.


~VOW
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  #32  
Old 01-26-2013, 07:33 AM
Septima Septima is offline
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Yeah, but we can't factor out pregnant women. Most women were pregnant a significant chunk of their lives.
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  #33  
Old 01-26-2013, 05:32 PM
Chessic Sense Chessic Sense is offline
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Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
It's obviously impossible for the ratio of men and women to become too imbalanced, regardless of whether men or women are more likely to live longer. If there are too many more men/women than women/men, those men/women don't have children. They simply don't have any effect on future generations.
That's irrelevant. Every baby has a near-50% chance of being male or female. It doesn't matter who its parents are. Even in a culture with one man and a million women, the next generation will be 50/50. In a culture with 50% of each, but only the queen bears children, the next generation is still 50/50.
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Old 01-26-2013, 05:34 PM
Chessic Sense Chessic Sense is offline
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Originally Posted by Peremensoe View Post
Women give birth to both boys and girls.
This is really the true answer. Sex isn't inherited like skin color. I'm not sure why this is forgotten in these threads.
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  #35  
Old 01-26-2013, 06:12 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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Chessic Sense writes:

> That's irrelevant. Every baby has a near-50% chance of being male or female. It
> doesn't matter who its parents are. Even in a culture with one man and a
> million women, the next generation will be 50/50. In a culture with 50% of each,
> but only the queen bears children, the next generation is still 50/50.

I think you're misreading my post. That's the same point I was making.
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  #36  
Old 01-26-2013, 06:25 PM
drew870mitchell drew870mitchell is offline
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Starvation: Kills slightly more men, actually.
I could buy this, since men have higher metabolic requirements than women, at least outside of pregnancy.
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  #37  
Old 01-26-2013, 06:36 PM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is offline
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I could buy this, since men have higher metabolic requirements than women, at least outside of pregnancy.
Women also have the advantage of more body fat to sustain them; the reserves meant to sustain a pregnancy can sustain them as well.

Last edited by Der Trihs; 01-26-2013 at 06:36 PM..
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  #38  
Old 01-27-2013, 12:14 AM
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By far it is because childbirth is extremely risky.
This is pretty much the answer, especially considering that each woman may have had several boys (who might die in wars) then die in childbirth herself.

Plus, any really skewed gender distribution tends to even out in a generation or two; look at post-WWII Germany for a good example. Lots more women post-war, but nowadays, it's about 50-50.
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  #39  
Old 01-27-2013, 01:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
It's obviously impossible for the ratio of men and women to become too imbalanced, regardless of whether men or women are more likely to live longer. If there are too many more men/women than women/men, those men/women don't have children.
How so, in the case of more women than men? One man can impregnate a lot of women in a short period of time.
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  #40  
Old 01-27-2013, 02:26 AM
AK84 AK84 is online now
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I wonder how the ratio of ancient societies was after some very bloody wars. The Roman republic ost circa 100,000 men in the first 2 years of the Punic War. That must have had an impact. And demographics do get screwed for a generation or two, not long in the scheme of things, but long enough to have noticeable effects. Wars tend to disporportionatly kill young men, many of them before the have had a chance to reproduce.

Last edited by AK84; 01-27-2013 at 02:26 AM..
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  #41  
Old 01-28-2013, 10:45 AM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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I wonder how the ratio of ancient societies was after some very bloody wars. The Roman republic ost circa 100,000 men in the first 2 years of the Punic War. That must have had an impact. And demographics do get screwed for a generation or two, not long in the scheme of things, but long enough to have noticeable effects. Wars tend to disporportionatly kill young men, many of them before the have had a chance to reproduce.
Plus some societies, like the Romans, had advanced social structures including slavery. Sleeping with your slaves was a "bad thing" socially, but I'm sure if not, other slaves filled the gap with or without matrimony. The point was that in those social evirons, a slave became a member of the household and therefore was fed, had a place to live, etc. without the need for one-to-one male-female monogamous pairing.

Similarly, the lowest working class would be slaves. If there was a shortage of male slaves to do the heavy lifiting, I assume a few wars would take care of that. I think slavery was as much about finding a place for everyone, avoiding a large homeless lower class that might be trouble.

So maybe there were more women than men at times. As mentioned by others, within a generation that would balance out.

Just because there were more women than men does not mean women ran things - it's less about numbers than physical power; after all, the largest class was also slaves, and they had no power either. OTOH, from what I read noble women in Rome had a fairly elevated legal status, on their own and exercising their husband's or late husband's estate.
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  #42  
Old 01-28-2013, 11:13 AM
jtgain jtgain is offline
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Originally Posted by Peremensoe View Post
Women give birth to both boys and girls.
It's no harder than this. Even if a country gets it's ass kicked in a war and there are 50 men and 2000 women left, those men are gonna do a whole lot of impregnating and the next generation will be evenly mixed male/female.

No matter what happens in life, the next generation is 50:50, keeping everything close to balance, but for the reasons the OP mentioned, women are slightly more represented in the population at 50.8%.
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  #43  
Old 01-28-2013, 11:15 AM
jtgain jtgain is offline
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I wonder how the ratio of ancient societies was after some very bloody wars. The Roman republic ost circa 100,000 men in the first 2 years of the Punic War. That must have had an impact. And demographics do get screwed for a generation or two, not long in the scheme of things, but long enough to have noticeable effects. Wars tend to disporportionatly kill young men, many of them before the have had a chance to reproduce.
Shortage of men doesn't affect childbirth rates; shortage of women do. If you have 100 men and 1 woman, only 1 child can be born that year.

If you have 1 man and 100 women, you will have 100 children born that year and one tired man.
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  #44  
Old 01-28-2013, 11:24 AM
Michael63129 Michael63129 is offline
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Shortage of men doesn't affect childbirth rates; shortage of women do. If you have 100 men and 1 woman, only 1 child can be born that year.

If you have 1 man and 100 women, you will have 100 children born that year and one tired man.
Maybe if the man is 80 years old; that's only once every 3-4 days, I can easily see a younger man (e.g. my age) impregnating thousands of women a year (if it is timed right so they all conceive the first time).
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  #45  
Old 01-31-2013, 04:58 AM
AK84 AK84 is online now
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If you have 1 man and 100 women, you will have 100 children born that year and one tired man.
And lots of awkwardness 18 years down the line when the kiddies start.......you knwo
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  #46  
Old 01-31-2013, 06:13 AM
Manda JO Manda JO is offline
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Originally Posted by Captain Amazing View Post
How so, in the case of more women than men? One man can impregnate a lot of women in a short period of time.
If it's a handful of women and a bunch of men, then in a generation you have a very small population, but it's still 50/50.
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Old 01-31-2013, 06:29 AM
bldysabba bldysabba is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dtilque View Post
India has moved into the modern age with their prejudice against female children. It's quite common for Indian parents-to-be to find out the sex of the fetus via ultrasound and preferentially abort the females. It's illegal, but widely practiced anyway.
Quite true, but the situation is improving. The Indian 2011 census revealed that the 2001-2011 period was the first decade in many where the rate at which the sex ratio is becoming skewed has reduced. So at least things are getting worse more slowly than before. I anticipate/hope that the sex ratio gap will start narrowing soon.
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Old 01-31-2013, 10:51 AM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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I've seen a few articles on the Chinese sex ratio problem. Apparently they have their own version of the "Russian mail order bride" problem, involving women from places like Vietnam and Cambodia.

The women advertise they are looking for a "rich" husband in China. ("Rich" is a relative term.) Men who can't find a match in China will offer to marry them. The women demand a fee. Once the marriage has taken place and the woman gets the money (and whatever else she can get her hands on) she disappears back to Vietnam, possibly to pull the same stunt again.

I haven't heard about the same problem in India, but I'm sure it's coming.
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