Journal Article

Are skewed sex ratios associated with violent crime? A longitudinal analysis using Swedish register data

Filser, A., Barclay, K. J., Beckley, A., Uggla, C., Schnettler, S.
Evolution and Human Behavior (2020)
Open Access


There is widespread concern in both the popular and academic literature that a surplus of men in a population intensifies mating competition between men, particularly unpartnered men, resulting in increased violence towards both men and women. Recent contributions challenge this perspective and argue that male mating competition and levels of violence will be higher when sex ratios are female-skewed. Existing empirical evidence remains inconclusive. We argue that this empirical ambiguity results from analyses of aggregate-level data, which put inferences at risk of ecological fallacies. Our analysis circumvents such problems by using individual-level, longitudinal demographic register and police data for the Stockholm metropolitan area, Sweden (1990-2003, n=758,498). These data allow us to investigate the association between municipality-level sex ratios and violent offending (homicide, assault, threat, and sexual crimes) while adjusting for sociodemographic factors. Results suggest that aggregated offending rates are negatively associated with male-skewed sex ratios, whereas individual-level violent offending correlates positively with male-skews. We find that the more-men-more-violence association particularly holds for male violence against other men, but is insignificant for violence against women. Moreover, the association is significant among childless men, but not among fathers. However, robustness checks question the causality of these associations. Female violent offending is positively, albeit due to a low number of cases, insignificantly associated with male-skews. Moreover, both male and female non-violent offending is higher in male-skewed municipalities. These results contradict theoretical predictions. We discuss the implications with regard to the theoretical debate and problems of unobserved heterogeneity in the sex ratio literature.

Keywords: crimes, sex ratio
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.