The puzzle of where men outnumber women, and vice-versa.

The concentration of men and women in various parts of Victoria is stronger than you’d expect according to random variation.

There’s some real trends in place that seem like a genuine puzzle. (These charts are made from fascinating data released by the ABS this week.)

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 11.51.11 am Fully a third of postcodes have a gender ratio that’s skewed more than 5 per cent one way or the other. There are slightly more postcodes where women outnumber men by 5 per cent (79) than those where men outnumber women by 5 per cent (62.)

That’s to be expected because there are 99 men per 100 women in Australia.

But where men outnumber women they do so by a lot more.

The top result is Port Melbourne Industrial, which is a place I’m surprised anyone calls home. And indeed there are just 9 males to 4 females (ratio 2.25). Security guards who sleep among the containers? Who knows.

The next one is Braeside. A similar story with a ratio of 12 men to 6 women.  Then Alps East with 18 and 9. I’d like to imagine those 18 men have swags and wake each day to see their horse breathing steam under an old ghost gum.

Anyway, we can discount those three because the samples are tiny.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 11.50.54 am
Female dominated suburbs include Chelsea and Rosebud. More men live in Seymour. Is this another case of nominative determinism?

Rosedale is the real thing. 2645 men to 1863 women (ratio 1.42). A little hamlet out in the Latrobe Valley, it is probably full of people working in the coal-fired electricity industry. A hard place for a fella to get a date, no doubt. Although the photos on the Rosedale Tavern’s facebook page suggest that’s where the local ladies go. (and it’s not as bad as East Pilbara where men outnumber women 350 per 100.)

It’s easy to explain some locations of high concentrations of men by reference to workforce pressures. They are found around heavy industries and agriculture.

Some are more tricky. Why is Footscray so full of testosterone? Why Docklands?

And why do women crowd into the expensive eastern suburbs? We see Burwood, Camberwell and Armadale in the top 10 with less than 90 men per 100 women.

Toorak, the suburb most emblematic of wealth, has a ratio of 91 men to every 100 women. Are there many young single women there perhaps? Or families whose daughters live with them for a long time?

The CBD , meanwhile, has a ratio of 107 men to every 100 women.

Perhaps we are seeing women self-select into suburbs they deem are very safe, while men are more willing to live in supposedly rough areas?

Do you have another explanation? Please feel free to share it in a comment below!


Commenter Matt points out that women live longer, which is a very good point (that I wish I thought of). This is definitely part of the explanation as we can see in the graph for the most skewed suburb, Burwood:

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 1.21.51 pmBut it’s not the whole explanation. If it were, Footscray would look similar up til the mid-40s, when men start dropping off. Instead Footscray has more men at every age.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 1.33.30 pmI think the puzzle has had a lot of pieces added, but there’s still some blank spots… Any further ideas?

To have and to hold (a job). The correlation of marriage and employment is puzzlingly strong.

You’d think getting married is relevant to your home life. You wouldn’t expect it to change your employment outcomes.

I mean, I’ve never done it, but I doubt you get back from your honeymoon buzzing with a desire to read and reply to all those emails.

And yet, the correlation between marriage and labour market outcomes is quite astounding. 


The unemployment rate for unmarried men is nearly four times higher than for married men (11.3% vs 3.1 per cent). For women, the ratio is over two (8.9% vs 4%).

The difference between married and unmarried makes the difference between men and women look small. 

Essentially, if you are a married man, you’re living in a labour market no different from the best parts of the 1970s, with 3 per cent unemployment!

Might this be a statistical artefact? It could come about because the young have poor employment outcomes, and are less to be married. Let’s have a look at an older age bracket.

Unemployment 35-44

The absolute levels of unemployment have fallen, especially for men. But the ratios of unemployment rates between married and unmarried are about the same: 4:1 for men and 2:1 for women.

The above graphs make it look like married people are all hard at work in the office. But the unemployment rate hides a big difference in participation rates.

There are two distinct clumps in this chart. Married men, who participate in the workforce at a rate of 95 per cent. And everyone else, who participate at around 75 per cent.


The 80s were a time of rapid change for women. But since 1990, one of the biggest changes in the employment market has been unmarried men dropping out of the labour force. Their non-participation rate basically doubled from 10 per cent to 20 percent.

Given the unemployment graphs on the previous page, I’d be very surprised if the red line (married women) didn’t tick up over the green line in coming years.

Two mysteries remain.

1. Why is the difference between the married and unmarried so strong, and so consistent over time?

I have a few theories.

Perhaps the unemployed are busy proposing, but are rejected because they are unemployed?

Perhaps there are confounding variables, like good looks or intelligence, which are correlated with both earning power and marriageability.

Perhaps it’s not about the kind of people they are but the incentives they face:

Obviously marriage and children are correlated. Obviously children (who are cruelly forbidden by the law to earn the money to feed themselves) are expensive. Could it simply be the compulsion to put bread on the table that explains why married people are so rarely out of work?

2. Why is the labour force participation rate of unmarried men eroding?

Marriage is increasingly rare, and increasingly for the old.

Can that explain the fall in unmarried men’s attachment to the labour force?

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 10.54.35 am

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 11.02.39 am(They are also increasingly likely to have a non-religious ceremony, but I’m not sure that’s relevant)



I’m not sure it does, and this makes me wonder if perhaps the “discouraged worker effect” might be true. All those unmarried men might once have worked in factories. Maybe they’re less able or inclined to take service sector jobs. 

There might also be an echo of higher immigration rates in the data. The overseas born have lower workforce participation rates. (chart source)



Which looks like a nice simple story, until you fold it back in on itself and see that immigrants actually get married at a higher rate than their proportion in the population! (Number of marriages is on the vertical axis, so in total, this graph shows that at least 40 per cent of people getting married in Australia are overseas-born.)

marriage of immigrants


How long until Tasmania is totally empty?

You can buy a fully renovated mansion on top of a hill in Tasmania for under $850,000.

Tasmanian MansionDid I mention that it is a mansion?

Hobart House plansIt’s also in the heart of Tasmania’s capital city, 1.4 km from the waterfront.

Even though a similar property in Melbourne would cost probably seven times as much, a multi-million dollar saving is apparently not enough to actually tempt people to live in Hobart.

Demographic data out today show the Apple Isle circling the plug hole. Its population growth rate is not far from zero, and people continue to leave in large numbers.

Tassie interstate migration

In the 36 years since 1981, Tasmania has managed to actually lose people to interstate migration, despite the Australian population more than doubling. They’ve been saved from extinction by overseas migration and the birth rate. But will that continue?

The entire state has managed just 700 babies in the last six months, an amazing new low.

Tassie births

The Tasmanian fecundity shortfall looks especially stark when you compare it to other states. WA has had 9800 babies in the last six months.

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 12.37.09 pm

The reason for Tassie’s child shortfall is not unguessable: Too few mums and dads, and too many grandmas and grandpas.

Tasmania by ageHow does Tasmania break out of this cycle? If mainland house price growth continues, there should eventually be push factors. Once the price of new housing in country Victoria and outer Melbourne starts to be much higher than the price of new housing in Tasmania, people might start moving there.

Also if climate change picks up, Tasmania will offer the last temperate zone in Australia.

But that doesn’t offer much to Tasmania in terms of positive actions it can take. Another option I’ve canvassed is learning from the failure of the EU, and giving Tasmania its own monetary policy and currency (The Boonie).

Essentially, the lesson of migration everywhere is that most people (except retirees) will move for jobs. That’s something Tasmania has too little of.

Unemployment by state

How to fix? There are glimmers of hope in the data above. Australia’s next big boom will be looking after the aged. If Tasmania can turn itself into Australia’s Florida (the place to move when you retire), there should be lots of jobs in aged care.

It just needs to convince the mainland-dwelling elderly that if they don’t want to work all the way to Tony Abbott’s new pension age, they should downsize to a much cheaper house on the other side of Bass Strait.

That would bring an influx of wealth to the island, and provide for a lot of jobs. The aged care industry is already showing a lot of growth.

Aged care

Can the Apple Isle fill those creaky old Hobart mansions with happy retirees? The key to Florida’s success has been “Weather, effective marketing, low taxes and a herd mentality.” Tasmania can match two of those already (good marketing and a retiree flow). Lower stamp duty for over-55s buying a new property might be a good policy move.

As for the weather? It can’t do much more than it’s doing already, by logging those virgin forests and exacerbating climate change.


Who is making us rich?

Australia’s GDP is soaring. But per capita GDP is not.  

Source: ABS National Accounts

If the total income of the country is rising faster than the income of the individuals in it, that is because of population growth.

Where does Australia’s population growth come from? The ABS makes answering this question easy. Migration beats babies and has since around 2005.

Source: Australian Demographic Statistics


Specifically, China, New Zealand and India.

Source: ABS Australian Demographic Statistics

The boom in population is not working to increase per capita GDP. But there is a political consensus around strong migration. Wonder why?

Source: ABS Household Income and Income Distribution


One answer is that in the absence of strong productivity growth, we need population growth to prevent unemployment. The other, equally true answer is that immigration appears to benefit the rich.

It’s hardly surprising new arrivals don’t capture for themselves their contribution to national income. That necessarily flows to business owners and those already established here. It’s not surprising. Next time someone complains about immigration, feel free to pass them this link.