E.g., 10/23/2014
E.g., 10/23/2014

Sex Ratios of the Foreign Born in the United States

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Sex Ratios of the Foreign Born in the United States

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This Spotlight examines the sex ratios of the foreign born in the United States (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, March Supplement, 2002).

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How Sex Ratios Are Calculated
One method used by demographers to measure the relative number of males and females in a population is the sex ratio. The male-to-female sex ratio is calculated by dividing the number of males (of all ages) by the number of females (of all ages) and multiplying by 100. A value above 100 means there are more males than females in the population. For example, a sex ratio of 115 means there are 115 males to every 100 females. A value below 100 indicates more females than males. A sex ratio of 90 means there are 90 males to every 100 females. A sex ratio of 100 means there are an equal number of males and females (i.e., 100 males to 100 females).

The total foreign-born population has a balanced sex ratio, while the sex ratio of the native population indicates more females than males.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the sex ratio of the total foreign-born population in 2002 was approximately balanced at 101, indicating an equal number of males and females (see Graph 1). The sex ratio for the native population was 95, which suggests a higher number of females than males. The sex ratio for the total (or combined) population was 96.

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While the total foreign-born population has a balanced sex ratio, the sex ratio for specific countries of origin varies considerably.

In 2002, the sex ratios of the foreign born from India (138) and Mexico (124) were well above 100, indicating a higher number of males than females in the population (see Graph 2). The immigrant populations from El Salvador (110) and Haiti (109) also had sex ratios above 100. The foreign born from Germany (64), South Korea (65), the Dominican Republic (68), the Philippines (71), and Japan (74) had low sex ratios, indicating a higher number of females than males.

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Migration flows into the United States from particular countries are often dominated by either male or female migrants, which can affect the sex ratio of the resident foreign-born population.

Migration flows into the United States from countries around the world are often dominated by either male or female migrants. The preponderance of either sex often reflects the reasons driving the migration flow itself (e.g., economic factors, family reunification, political conflict). For example, the immigration of high-skilled male laborers, such as computer programmers or engineers, in the 1980s and 1990s helps explain why the sex ratio of the foreign born from India was 138 in 2002, indicating more males than females (see Graph 2). Conversely, immigration of female nurses and medical technicians helps explain why the sex ratio of the foreign born from the Philippines was 71, indicating more females than males.

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Among the foreign-born groups where the majority of immigrants have resided in the United States for a long period of time, sex ratios are likely to be low, indicating more females than males.

In foreign-born populations where the average number of years since time of arrival is high, the sex ratios are often below 100, indicating more females than males. For example, most European immigrants arrived in the United States more than 20 years ago, and the sex ratios for the foreign born from Germany (64) and England (89) were both below 100 in 2002. There are two reasons why "older" immigrant populations often have low sex ratios. First, while migration streams tend to be dominated initially by one sex (usually male), family reunification migration, which is increasingly likely to occur as immigrant communities become more established through time, tends to be dominated by women and children. This has an equalizing affect on the number of males and females and pushes the sex ratio closer to 100. Second, on average, women live longer than men. As the average age of the immigrant population increases, and a higher proportion of the foreign born are in the older age groups, the number of females relative to males increases, lowering the sex ratio.