Friday, January 12, 2007

Gender Imbalances

So far, 13 of the 15 students who have registered for my graduate seminar on the politics of the policymaking process are female. This continues an emerging trend toward gender imbalance in the classes I teach. Whereas a decade ago it was common for males to dominate in terms of raw numbers, it is exactly the reverse that seems to hold more and more as each year passes by. And it is not just in my classroom. All across higher education, women are outperforming men like never before.

In the short run, it doesn't matter in the least who sits in the chairs in front of me. But in the long run, there are very real dangers any time serious gender imbalances emerge in an important area of society. A couple of examples...

Here in DC, the fact that so many young black males are behind bars or are not professionally engaged has led to a dating scene that is, by all accounts, pretty weird. Well-schooled, well-employed black men in their 20s and 30s have the luxury of dating numerous women at once, given the lack of numerical competition. It has gotten so skewed that some black women are heading to Africa in search of a husband.

Meanwhile, China is flirting with a real catastrophe. Before too long, there will be more than 30 million more men of marrying age than women. The reason for this unprecedented (in the history of the world) imbalance is China's decades-old one-child policy. This policy has indeed curbed population growth, its intended effect, but has also led to widespread gender selection and discrimination practices, from rural villages all the way to Shanghai and other mega-cities. The bottom line is that with so many men unable to find a wife, social instability is bound to follow.

There is no such instability in my classroom, of course. But I'm using this semester's female-laden roster as a nod to a seemingly innocuous trend that could be a harbinger of difficulties to come, both for women and their less-and-less well educated male counterparts.



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