Why Are There More Men in the World Than Women?

While there are more men than women from a global perspective, when you look at different demographics and geographic locations, the balance is often flipped.

When you look around in a crowded space, such as Times Square or an auditorium filled with people, it seems like there is generally an equal distribution of men and women. As a global population, however, we are not equally split between genders. There are roughly 102 men for every 100 women on the planet, which strikes some people as unusual. Nature doesn’t do anything randomly, so there must be some explanation for this peculiar population statistic. Evolution? Behavioral characteristics? Birth rate?

As it turns out, the answer is related to all three of those factors…

The Battle of the Sexes

While the population statistic may be 102 men : 100 women, the birth rate is even more skewed. Approximately 107 men are born for every 100 women, but over time that number seems to even out. Over the course of millions of years of evolution, nature has a way of working out the kinks, and this imbalanced birth rate is evidence of that.

The sex of any fetus is dependent on a number of factors, including the parents’ health, behavioral habits, age, previous childbirth experiences and the mother’s ovulation cycle. All of those factors contribute to the imbalanced ration of 107:100, but there is a good reason for stacking the deck in favor of males.

By nature, male infants are more likely to suffer some sort of health issue or premature death. Furthermore, as men age, they are more likely to develop serious health issues and engage in risky behavior. Additionally, throughout history, men have been more likely to kill one another than women. Countless wars, conflicts and even violent domestic disputes usually end with a much greater loss of life for males. This has been true since the earliest days of our species’ development, so it makes sense that nature had to compensate.

These elements cause male populations to decline at a faster rate than female populations over time, resulting in the global population ratio of 101 men : 100 women. The remaining difference can be explained by certain social and cultural traditions, such as abortions and gendercide, since male infants are more highly desired than females in some parts of the world.

Photo Credit : Flickr

Evening the Scales

While there are more men than women from a global perspective, when you look at different demographics and geographic locations, the balance is often flipped. As mentioned earlier, male infants are more likely to die from complications during birth and in the first few weeks of life, but the imbalance starts even earlier than that. Research has also shown a higher mortality rate for male embryos in the first week of pregnancy and in the final trimester (source).

As you move up the age scale, particularly past the age of 60, there is a clear advantage for women, who tend to have longer life expectancies than men. The global average life expectancy for women is 71.1 years; for men around the world, life expectancy averages 67 years (source).

In some countries, like Belarus, Russia and Lithuania, the life expectancy gap is even greater – female life expectancy is more than 11 years longer than men (source).

In terms of geographical location, some countries in the Middle East have more than 250 men : 100 women (e.g. United Arab Emirates and Qatar). At the other extreme, the Caribbean island of Martinique has a ratio of 85 men : 100 women (Source). Each country and demographic has a unique set of factors that affect the balance of men and women, so if anything, it is remarkable that the balance of men and women is as close as it is!

The Evolutionary Edge

As always, natural selection does have a hand in keeping the battle of the sexes relatively even. For example, if it were far less common for males to be born than females, reproduction of the species would still be important, and the males would have a reproductive advantage, and would be able to have many children. The genetic makeup of the males would predispose them to male offspring (since the males’ parents obviously had that predisposition in their genetic makeup).

Therefore, the number of males predisposed to male births would begin to increase until a balance was once again struck. In theory, all population dynamics would move towards a 50:50 split, but humans are a complex example, which is why nature has to compensate in various ways. This is known as the Fisher’s Principle – that every species would tend towards an even gender divide over time, since the minority gender would always possess a sexual advantage, and thus pass that advantage on to their offspring.

It’s pretty hard to find any fault in the natural order of gender, and while you may feel like a slight minority as a woman, at times, in the grand scheme of things, the difference isn’t all that great.  If you want to live in a world dominated by males, visit the Middle East, but if you want to relax somewhere with more females than males, take a trip to the Caribbean!


Harvard Health Publications

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About the Author:

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana. He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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