How the sex ratio affects obtaining a spouse


Question: How does the sex ratio affect advantage and/or disadvantage in obtaining a spouse? The sex ratio can play a large role in determining the number of available spouses a person could choose at any given time. According to out textbook “The obvious flip side of the discussion is that sex ratios affect bargaining for a spouse.” In terms of exchange theory, the sex that is lower in number becomes the more valuable sex and the sex in greater number becomes the less valuable sex. This can have huge consequences on marriage patterns. For example when there are more men than women mend tend to value women more and thus they are more likely to want to get married in order to keep their woman.

The opposite is true when the sex ratio is lower. Women are seen as less valuable in this case, and so men don’t have the same need to keep them by marriage. Men in this case feel like there are plenty of other women available, so marriage isn’t necessary to keep their valued commodity.

The low sex ratio in the United States today makes men, especially men who have good jobs, the more valuable sex. This gives men more to trade or bargain with. The textbook reads “Moreover, not only the relative number of eligible men is salient; their employment prospects also affect woman’s chances for marrying – and if they do marry, their chances of getting a good bargain.” Since the man is in the better bargaining position in the United States today, he can expect more out of his potential spouse than if the sex ratio were higher. For example, the man can expect the woman to bring home a salary as well as any domestic duties she might be expected to do. The man can do this directly because women have to be competing for him, since there is not a man for every woman with the low sex ratio. Also in the United States, as people get older the sex ratio gets even lower. This makes it increasingly difficult for older women to have much bargaining power in the exchange. African American women face the lowest sex ratio at average marrying age, as by ages 25-34 the sex ratio is 88.8 as show by Table 7.1 in the textbook. The direct result of the sex ratio is the value it places on each sex. By doing this it exercises the highest form of power in society, and heavily influences the ability of either sex to obtain a spouse, giving the advantage to the sex fewest in number.

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