January 04, 2004

Dysfunctional Arab Demographics

Originally posted as a comment in response to a badly reasoned article in the usually excellent Master of None. The article's theme was female infant killing in the arab world causing grumpy male arabs who couldn't get wives:

I hate to be the party pooper here but wouldn't infant killing show up in the numbers prior to the 15-64 age group? Death at birth would show up in the infant sex ratios. Death shortly due to monetary calculations would show up in the under 15 numbers.

Look up those numbers and it becomes clear that what's going on, however unusual or wrong, is not primarily infant killing.

I find the data fits the idea that the requirements for adult women in these societies are killing them in unusual numbers. I don't have the data to support this but it might be honor killings, heat prostration from those clothes, or something else entirely like highly underfunded female medical care.

There seem to be three types of sex distributions going on in the muslim world

Example: Iraq
Distribution description: Men start off in greater numbers but decline with each successive age group. This is consistent with most other countries including the vast majority of non-muslim ones.

Heart Beat:
Example: Bahrain
Distribution description: At birth normal, 1.03. Childhood, normal, 1.02. Adult group, abnormal at 1.42. And old age, relatively normal at 1.04

Example: Kuwait
Distribution: Male proportion of the population never drops but keeps rising over time.

It's not likely that these three distributions would arise from the same behavior. The heartbeat distribution might be evidence that reform governments have stamped out female unfriendly cultural practices but the reforms were recent enough that they haven't worked their way through the population.

The rising distribution is the most alarming evidence of female unfriendly social/political policies but infant killing doesn't seem to predominate even there as, again, the big jump is from the under 15 to the 15-64 group everywhere while predominant infant killing would show up in a high at birth number and a high jump in the under 15 number. I didn't see that pattern anywhere.

There's a lot not to like about a sex ratio number of 1.37 men to women but promoting an inflammatory idea like female infant killing when it's not supported by the data doesn't do anybody any service. It just makes the arabs close ranks as they are unjustly accused of something monstrous and give them an excuse to silence their own reformers who want to fix the problem, whatever it actually is.

Posted by TMLutas at January 4, 2004 01:45 PM