Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sex and the city

Sex and the city

by Péter Lukács 

Young women seem to outnumber men in the western cities lately. This phenomenon is controversial however, since cities require more skilled workers which could only explain the higher proportion of male inhabitants. One paper argues that attractive marriage markets appear to draw women into the cities.

Numbers prove that in the western world young women outnumber young man in urban areas. According to several studies cities offer better labor market for skilled workers then rural areas. It would then predict a surplus of young men in the cities, since we also know that in average man are more skilled than women. What explains the counterfactual balance of the sex-ratio then? What is so attractive in the cities for young women? One paper with the same title argues that it is the marriage market. But how?

According to the paper we can assume that men value characteristics associated with female fecundity which we could simply describe as young women. Since youth is a scarce “good” in the market, young women then tend to have a choice. If we also assume that women value financial security, richer men stand better chances. If rich men are located in urban areas indeed, that could explain the greater proportion of women.

We could then ask why marriage market doesn’t attract man and women symmetrically so that the sex ratio would balance. The paper answers this question by supposing that there is asymmetry in the marriage market and men pay women for marriage, meaning that men’s only way of achieving better chances in getting married is getting a high wage job, but women can chose between a high wage job career and a marriage as another income source. Thus such high paying areas (most likely cities) can support women more than men, since women have a choice between the income sources of a job or a man. 

Municipality sex ratio bye male average annual income, Sweden
Source: Edlund, L. (2005). Sex and the City. The Scandinavian Journal of Economics,107(1), pp.35.

The paper examines its assumptions on the date of Swedish municipality data. The hypothesis that young women match with rich men was a clear result. It also turned out that younger women are pricier indeed. However, there is also a merely plausible evidence that the male to female ratio is positively correlated with the women’s wages, in other words women are drown to areas with lower female income. The explanation is not obvious: when male incomes are low women tend to work more. Firstly, because in case of marriage the father’s low income must be made up and secondly, because in case of low male incomes, women are less likely to get married anyway so they rather concentrate on their wage income. Since it also turned out that municipalities with male surplus often have a low marriage rate it becomes clearer that this tendency cannot be explained by low availability of men but the low income of the men available.

But what does this really tell us about our world today? In cities, young women are attracted to rich man, whereas in rural areas they (comparing to cities) tend to choose working over marrying a lower income man. Clearly, money plays central role in our life, and no one can really be blamed for setting it high at the priorities, even when finding a partner. Financial insecurity might be many people’s nightmare. Many argues that extended families might not always stand behind us anymore when it’s about childbearing or that in this alienated word one cannot easily decide who is good for us, while the information about a man with high wage probably imply other good qualities other than richness. However, many people probably couldn’t accept this financial wellbeing as the main goal, especially not in the case of finding our love of life. They can only hope for other “positive” explanatory characteristics in these models which could outweigh the earning one.


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