Sex Ratios and Women's Roles: A Cross-National Analysis
Data for a sample of 117 countries are analyzed to test several hypotheses derived from the Guttentag-Secord theory relating societal-level sex ratios to women's status and roles. The theory implies that high sex ratios, which indicate a relative undersupply of women, will be positively associated with the proportion of women who marry and the fertility rate and negatively associated with women's average age at marriage, rates of divorce and illegitimacy, and female rates of literacy, labor-force participation, and suicide. Although the bivariate correlations between the sex ratio at ages 15-49 and these dimensions of women's roles provide little support for the theory, most of the expected relationships emerge when the level of socioeconomic development, as measured by a multi-item index, is statistically controlled. Additional analyses indicate that the effect of the sex ratio on women's role is more pronounced in developed than in developing countries.