G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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While it seems wrong, here is an interesting piece at Atlantic Cities on the impact of sex ratios on consumer debt. While sex ratio would be expected to have an impact on spending patterns (i.e. men spend more money when women are in limited supply), this study cited by The Atlantic doesn’t seem to properly analyze the issue:
The cities of Macon and Columbus, in Georgia, have a lot in common. They’re located within a hundred miles of one another and have similar histories and economies. So at a glance it’s hard to explain why the people of Columbus have, on average, consumer debt that’s roughly $3,500 more per capita than the people of Macon.
A group of psychologists thinks the disparities may have something to do with the fact that these two cities have widely diverging sex ratios. Macon has considerably fewer men than women (.78 to 1) and Columbus has considerably more (1.18 to 1). The research group, led by Vladas Griskevicius of the University of Minnesota, suggests that when men outnumber women in a population, they spend more and save less.
This leads researchers to believe that sex ratio imbalances are responsible for not only the higher per capita debt of Columbus residents but also the fact that men in Columbus spend more money on engagement rings, dinner, and other amenities.
The researchers analyzed 120 cities for causal links. If Columbus/Macon, Georgia is their strongest example, I worry that the research is fatally flawed. Just based upon the OP I don’t think that the researchers controlled for all appropriate variables. The Atlantic piece begins by arguing that Macon and Columbus “have a lot in common.” Geographically? Yes. But demographically and economically? No.
Here are the stats (Macon and Columbus): Macon is 68% black and 29% white; Columbus is 46% white and 46% black; median household income in Macon is ~ $28,000; median household income in Columbus is ~ $41,000; per capita income in Macon is ~ $17,000; Columbus per capita income is ~ $22,000.
I didn’t read the entire study, but did search the text for words like “income”, “black”, and “African-American”. “Income” was mentioned three times in the entire paper while race seems not to have been discussed at all.
People with higher incomes would also tend to have more household debt. Blacks also have, on average, less credit card debt than whites. Demos shows that black households average $5,800 in credit card debt compared to $7,300 for whites. Whites/wealthy have greater access to credit (and attendant debt) than do blacks/poor. And when those with lower incomes do have access to credit they are offered it at very low levels.
So perhaps debt is a poor way to look at the issue. If this theory of sex ratio impact on spending habits is strong, wouldn’t we expect higher incomes where men outnumber women? Again, I don’t doubt that there is a connection, but I do question the notion that these two particular cities are the best examples.