Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Amateur Demography: Human Sex Ratio Edition

I have been toying around with a little Python module that I wrote to turn a spreadsheet with data over time into a density map by region using Google Geochart.  It also codes in the ability to change the map for different data sets with JavaScript.  This is a little dangerous since I found tons of demographic data at the website of the Institute of Demography at the Higher School of Economics. (Self promotion alert: I will be starting a postdoc in history at HSE next month.)  It has tons (thousands) of tables from every census conducted in Russia and the Soviet Union, which makes it a great candidate for mapping.

Ideally, a map will tell a little story and unfortunately some of the data sets don't tell very interesting ones.  The variation over time is minimal and expected.  But there are other data sets that turn into really nice visuals.  Here is one of them--the proportion of men to women in the USSR by republic from 1926 to 1989 (change the category with the dropdown menu):

In the map, fewer men means lighter coloring and a very high ratio of men to women would display as dark red.  I set the scale to start close to the lowest value (.782 men to women in 1959 in Estonia) and the high end near the highest value (1.2 men to women in Turkmenistan in 1926).  

The obvious change I expected was in the first post-war census (1959).  The war was hard on the entire population but it absolutely destroyed the cohort of men who were of ordinary service age, especially at the start of the war.  Catherine Merridale in Ivan's War cited a almost unimaginable statistic that 90 percent of men born in 1921 died in the war.  And you can really see this by comparing the map from 1939 and 1959.  The entire Soviet Union bleeds out in the 1959 census but the contrast is especially strong in the areas where the war was fought.

One other thing popped out at me - the contrast of Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia with the Central Asian republics. (Also, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan were autonomous republics of the Russian Soviet Republic until 1936 and so they do not show up in the 1926 census.  Same with the Baltics and Moldova until 1959.)   I don't know why the ratio of men to women was comparatively (and sometimes actually) high in Central Asia.  The possibility that came to mind was that there was under-reporting of the female population that was part of the general disenfranchisement of the female population in those countries.  Over time, the difference between the republic began to even out, which could suggest that programs to include women in the social-politic culture of Central Asia had some effect (or at least made them legible as citizens to state authorities).  If there are any Central Asianists who have thoughts on this I would be interested in a more informed opinion.  

More of these kinds of maps forthcoming in the next few weeks.

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