Musings About Life... After Birth
Posted by Chelsea on March 01, 2010
In some oddly interesting news, a recent study has revealed that news of impending large-scale unemployment results in fewer males being born. Here’s the deal:
The economic downturn has spawned a spate of scary statistics. How many jobs have been lost? How many people are unemployed, or underemployed? How large is the national debt?
As pundits pondered those data points, a group of University of California researchers were crunching a different set of disturbing numbers. Their unorthodox measure of how the threat of unemployment affects families is summed up by a disquieting question:
How many boys have not been not born?
To be precise, a research team from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health calculated the number of frail male fetuses that were spontaneously aborted by mothers facing economic insecurity. Looking solely at the state of California between April 1995 and December 2007, they estimate the number is just over 3,000.
Their paper, “Selection in Utero: A Biological Response to Mass Layoffs,” has just been published in the American Journal of Human Biology. The researchers, led by Ralph Catalano and Claire Margerison Zilko, write that the previously reported health effects of economic insecurity may “represent only the tip of a more fundamental ‘adaptation iceberg.’”
Specifically, their research supports the argument that when women receive signals that times are tough, their bodies retain the tendency, shaped over thousands of years through natural selection, to reject offspring less likely to survive.
To our ancient ancestors, those signs would presumably be signals of impending drought or other natural disaster, which would indicate a coming food scarcity. Catalano and colleagues concluded the closest thing we have today is the announcement of mass layoffs at major employers, which impacts “the degree to which the larger population perceives a threat to its economic security.”
Such threats are bad news to small male fetuses because “a relatively large fraction” of them fall near “a critical rank below which gestations spontaneously end,” the researchers explain. If they are born, these small males are more likely to die than larger infants and females of equivalent size.
The researchers examined California’s ratio of male to female births from mid-1995 to the end of 2007 and compared it to the federal Labor Department’s monthly statistics on mass layoffs in the state. The government reports a mass layoff has taken place when 50 or more people file for unemployment insurance from a single company over five weeks.
After doing some complex calculations, they estimated that news of impending mass layoffs “predicted the loss of 3,090 males in utero” during the 61 months (out of the 141 they examined) in which unemployment claims exceeded the expected number.
The male-female birth ratio generally favors boys (who are born at a rate of about 1.05 for every female), but the ladies catch up later in life, since they tend to live longer than men. Catalano’s research touches on that issue as well. “Males from low sex-ratio birth cohorts appear to enjoy relatively longer life spans on average,” he and his colleagues write, “perhaps due to ‘culling’ of the frailest among them in utero.”
So, if these researchers are correct, periods of high unemployment and economic instability —like the era we are currently living through — produce fewer, but healthier, males. That has to be considered an unexpected economic indicator.
So, I guess if my husband and I decide to go for a third, and I really want a girl, the time to get movin’ is now, huh? Recession, schmession! Bring on the pink tutus!
Page 1 of 1 pages
Click on the icon below to get The Momtourage™ content updates through your feed reader whenever we update our site.
- The Kiefer Cottage
Meet the Kiefers: a quirky, lovable family of five on a quest to transform their 1940s Kansas City bungalow into the house of their dreams. The budget is small, the dreams are big, the creativity is inspiring. Check them out - you can thank us later. Happy reading, everybody!
- Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day® All Purpose Cleaner
I don't understand gals who claim to loooove cleaning. That said, I do get a certain joy from using Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day® All Purpose Cleaner to care for my home. You can't lose with this stuff...it is hard-working & earth-friendly, and will leave your abode smelling like a day spa instead of a chemical spill. Try Lemon Verbena in the kitchen and Basil in the bathroom. At only $7.99 a bottle, you can afford to pick up both!
- True Blood
Um, does this even need a caption? Doubtful, but let me just say that this is the hottest hour on television. Vampires are seriously sexy (especially Eric), and on this show you get to see a lot of them--if you get what I mean. Put the kids to bed and flip the channel to HBO on Sundays at 9 p.m. to taste the fun that is True Blood.
- Valentino Bow Thong Sandals
So comfy and feminine, I know I'd wear them all summer. But dang, that much money for jellies? Possibly worth the splurge. $275, nordstrom.com
- New Balance Kids’ Sneakers in wide sizes
My boys have wide feet, which means finding cute shoes for them is tough. These, however, rock. Prices vary, visit nbwebexpress.com to purchase.
- Zoya “Laurie” Nail Polish
This sheer pink polish is, without question, the PERFECT nude pink. Plus, the polish is free of formaldehyde, toluene, camphor and dibutyl phthalate (read: yucky crap that isn't really safe for prego gals). $6, enailsupply.com.
- A response to Ron Clark’s “What teachers really want to tell parents”
- Apparently My Husband Thinks in Sci-Fi
- Monday Again?
- The Momtourage Remembers
- How to Sound Smarter When You Write: Free Lesson
- What Should Your Child Know? Spot On Wisdom.
- Hurricane prep you might not have considered…...
- How to Lose a Guy in Nine Ways (Ideas you just might want to pass on to your daughters!)
- Mommy Merit Badges
- Ask the Experts
- Mother's Day
- Blog stuff
- Life in the 'Hood
- Contests and Giveaways
- DC Stuff
- Election 2008
- Environmental Awareness
- Funny Stuff
- Health and Safety
- In the News
- Interesting Articles
- Kidding Around
- Monday Mom Must-Haves
- My Boys
- New Baby
- New York City
- Parents Who Rock
- Pop Culture Commentary
- Radio Appearances
- Stuff for Baby
- Television Commentary
- The Madness of Motherhood