Saturday, May 26, 2012

Why do women end up in cities?

The Central Statistics Office have released the latest section of results for the 2011 Census, exploring the age and sex demographics of Ireland.

One strange fact is that in rural areas men are a pretty big majority, while in urban areas women are the majority. Here is a graph showing the age distribution of men and women in rural (green) and urban (red) areas:

The really interesting age group is the 20-30 year old group, where we see a strong city-country divide between the sexes. 

The Census document breaks this down further. For every 1,000 women aged 20 living in a rural area, there are 1,127 men. To simplify a bit, for every ten 20-year-old women in rural areas, expect eleven men. Of course we see the reverse situation in the cities, where for every 1,000 women aged 25, there are only 891 men: where ten 25-year-old women gather in the city, expect only nine men.

What causes this? I can imagine that young men might find more job opportunities in agriculture or construction in rural areas that are less accessible or attractive to young women. I also know that young women are more likely to get third level education than men, so perhaps this sucks some of the rural women into cities for university.

But I wonder if there might be other effects beyond simple demand for labour or education. 

I absolutely love the countryside, and I feel that its peace and quiet greatly outweighs any of the urban attractions I lose out on. The only reason I live in the city is because work opportunities are greater, and the university where I am presently doing my MSc is in the heart of Dublin. I would be out of here in a shot if the opportunity arose. 

Just minutes ago I was chatting with a female friend who said she would die of boredom in the country. I have friends of either sex who prefer either city or country life, but I think - I think - that I have more female friends who prefer the cities relative to the males. Could the rural areas be more sexist and conservative, driving young women to liberal cities? 

I wonder, though, if it is a little more subtle. For me, wandering around in the countyside with swallows swooping around me, trees sighing with the breeze, the hedgerows busy with bees and butterflies, well that sounds like a very good time. For other people, getting drunk in a jam-packed nightclub is a good time, and I've expressed my feelings about that horrible experience here before!

Could it be that a greater proportion of women enjoy the amenities of cities - clubs, shops, galleries, museums, theatres, etc. - than men? It need not be a particularly big proportion, just enough to explain the sex demographic difference. Any thoughts?

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