The Effect of 'Surplus' Men on Xenophobia: Panel Data from the Neue Bundesländer

Research question/goal: 

Sex ratios in the human population are remarkably constant in the absence of manipulation. However, human manipulation has distorted these natural sex ratios in large parts of the world. As found by numerous studies, this change in sex ratios has a tremendous impact on social realities. Although less dramatic in origin and size compared to Asian and African countries, qualitatively similar cohorts of surplus men have also emerged in rural areas of Germany, offering a unique case in Europe. This change was not caused by a particular preference for sons or a specific family structure, but by a sex-specific migration. In rural regions in Germany, especially in the area of the former GDR, disproportionally more women left structurally weak districts during the almost three decades after reunification.

The project is the first to explain the reasons why particularly women left these regions. We created a regional-level dataset by combining the ALLBUS with demographic, social, and economic indicators collected online and in archives. The data covers all German regional districts over the last 20 years. It thus has been possible to estimate the demographic, social, and economic factors which influenced sex-specific migration. These factors affect the two sexes differently, making it easier for women to emigrate from a region. The empirical results indicate that females in rural, regional districts migrate because of higher educational aspirations and a higher tendency to work compared to the males. Although economic factors such as unemployment and income differences contribute to the migration of both males and females, the latter need to overcome lower thresholds to migrate. This ultimately leads to the establishment of a new low social class of mostly young, poorly educated men in structurally weak regions all over Germany.

The project also examined the direct and indirect effects of disproportionate sex ratios. There are problems regarding cohabitation, which leads to a devaluation of partnerships, and, in consequence, to individual and collective relative deprivation as well as anomia. Our results—controlling for demographic and structural factors— indicate that a surplus of menleads to fewer marriages in rural districts, an increased probability for people in these districts to be in a state of anomia, and an increased feeling of individual relative deprivation. Most of our findings apply to East and West Germany.
Beyond these direct effects of surplus men, we identified several indirect effects. We showed that xenophobia, nationalism, and voting for right-wing parties are connected to deprivation and anomia. The central results confirmed that voting behaviour as well as xenophobic tendencies are strongly connected to individual and collective relative deprivation and anomia. Eventually, we also found a relationship between surplus males and national pride.

Fact sheet

MZES, Uni Mannheim
2012 to 2019
Data Sources: 
primary data / secondary data
Geographic Space: