WASHINGTON – State demographers are keenly aware of the fact that there is a disparity between the numbers of men and women in Maryland.
Beyond that the picture gets fuzzy.
The Census Bureau reported in October that there were 79 single men above age 15 for every 100 single women in 2000, a man-to-woman ratio that was the worst in the nation — from a woman’s point of view.
The situation is even worse in some areas of the state. The Census Bureau said the Cumberland region had just 75 men per 100 women, the 14th-lowest ratio of the 260 metropolitan areas the bureau recognizes in the country.
Theories abound as to why the gap exists: Large numbers of male immigrants, the concentration of women in government jobs, the high murder rate of young men in urban areas, and a growing senior population all could be factors contributing to the dearth of single men in the state.
But no one knows for sure.
“All those (factors) might be sources of more females than males” in Maryland, said Suzanne Bianchi, director of the Population Research Center at the University of Maryland, College Park.
But she said that more research has to be done.
Older people certainly are one piece of the puzzle in Cumberland, said Mark Goldstein, an economist with the Maryland Department of Planning. He said that plant closures of recent decades cost Allegany County more than 3,000 jobs. That caused many people to move away in search of better opportunities, leaving behind a mostly older population with longtime roots in the community.
In 2000, people over 65 accounted for 17.9 percent of the population in Allegany County, according to the Census. Statewide, seniors make up 11.3 percent of the population.
And more seniors means more women, since women live longer than men.
“Anyone who knows about the age mortality would not be surprised,” said Nan Astone, an associate professor of population and family health science at Johns Hopkins University. “A lot of this is being driven by the fact that women are living a very long time.”
But Astone acknowledged that the senior factor probably is not the only factor pushing up the number of single females in Maryland. If it was, states like Florida and Arizona, which have larger senior populations than Maryland, would have wider gender gaps.
Astone said that there are probably additional factors contributing to Maryland’s high ranking, such as an increased rate of death for young men in Maryland. But she, like others, said she could not make definitive conclusions without additional information.
“It’s surprising,” Astone said of the statewide trend.