|Picture from here.|
|Amartya Sen photo from here.|
This brings us to Merangin district, where I've been doing some work over the past week. As I was pouring over the socioeconomic statistics for the district, I noticed something strange about the population numbers. I'll explain further in a moment, but first I want to introduce the population pyramid
|Year 2000 pyramid for Mozambique from here.|
|I can't remember where I got this graphic. Sue me.|
The occurrence of war and epidemics can have a pretty significant impact on a population at certain times, which is reflected in the overall structure of the pyramid. Similarly, the presence of colleges, military bases, prisons, and other facilities can account for demographic weirdness.
Merangin's Missing Women
Returning to my story, as I was going over demographic information I noticed something odd. Unlike other districts in Indonesia, there are more men than women in Merangin. At first I thought this might be accounted for by the presence of encroaching farmers that come from other districts to open up new land in the national park (presumably these would be mostly men working seasonally away from their families; I think that this probably accounts for some of the imbalance in the older cohorts), but a quick check of the age breakdown disproved this hypothesis as the disparity shows up among younger cohorts as well as old. I made the population pyramid below using Excel; to make your own population see this great tutorial.
As I mentioned previously, Southeast Asia is an exception to Sen's observation of the missing women trend in Asia. As far as I know, there's no evidence of any sort of sex-selective abortion or infanticide in Indonesia, and since the Merangin anomaly doesn't show up in other districts, there had to be some other explanation. I asked my new friends at the planning office about this, and they were as vexed as I was. One suggested that it could be explained by a lack of health facilities in the more far-flung parts of the district, but if this were the case boys would be affected as well. We weren't able to come up with a good answer. I had a colorful and imaginative conversation with my good friend Agung as we tried to come up with a possible solution, but because the various adolescent myths of the gender-determining merits of various copulative positions we'd heard were at odds (1), we didn't come up with a resolution. As an open minded scholar, I can't rule out the influence of some hitherto-undocumented environmental factor or even the effects of thaumatology (2).
The only thing I've been able to come up with that makes any sense is that maybe encroaching farmers tend to bring male children with them to help work their newly-opened land, but I'm still looking for a definite answer to the mystery of Merangin's missing women. If you have any ideas, drop me a line.
(1) Most likely due to the fact that Agung is a product of the southern hemisphere, whereas I come from the northern hemisphere, and so the coriolis effect probably has some sort of influence.
(2) The dark arts.