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That’s the one thing that always came up when I’d discuss theories on declining marriage rates or the rise of the hookup culture with my friends or family. In reality, these values have ebbed and flowed throughout history, often in conjunction with prevailing sex ratios. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, there are 5.5 million college-educated women in the U. between the ages of 22 and 29 versus 4.1 million such men. Among college grads age 30 to 39, there are 7.4 million women versus 6.0 million men—five women for every four men. Times have changed, and that is a good thing—especially the fading-away of cruel taboos that once stigmatized women who engaged in premarital sex or bore children out of wedlock. The values question assumes that sexual mores loosen naturally from conservative to liberal.
On a lark, I emailed my friend Cynthia Bowman,* a devout Mormon who grew up in Salt Lake City and returns there often, and asked her whether Mormon sex ratios are as lopsided as the ARIS study claimed.
[Editor’s note: “Cynthia Bowman” is a pseudonym, as are other names denoted with an asterisk.
Some biographical details have been altered to hide their identities.] Yes, she told me, the ratios are lopsided. “They wait for the next, more perfect woman,” grumbled Bowman, a veterinarian in San Diego.
Premarital sex remains taboo for Mormons, but the shortage of Mormon men was pushing some women over the brink.
I wanted to show that god-fearing folks steeped in old-fashioned values are just as susceptible to the effects of shifting sex ratios as cosmopolitan, hookup-happy 20-somethings who frequent Upper East Side wine bars. One of my web searches turned up a study from Trinity College’s American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) on the demographics of Mormons.
According to the ARIS study, there are now 150 Mormon women for every 100 Mormon men in the state of Utah—a 50 percent oversupply of women.
And just as I predicted, lopsided gender ratios affect conservative religious communities in much the same way they affect secular ones.
At first glance, the state of Utah—60 percent Mormon and home of the LDS church—looks like the wrong place to study what I like to call the man deficit.
But lurking beneath the Census data is a demographic anomaly that makes Utah a textbook example of how shifting gender ratios alter behavior.