Located in Northeast India, the Khasi is a matrilineal society numbering close to 1 million (2011). From birth, women experience a female world. Their households are led by females, businesses are run by women, property can be inherited only by women. In a Khasi maternity ward, you might hear cheering when a girl is born but, “‘oh okay, he’ll do” for a boy.
When researchers visited a Khasi home, they observed that the man (the husband) who first greeted them “…said ‘please wait, my wife (or mother-in-law) is coming.’ And it was the wife who entertained us…while her husband remained silent in the corner of the room, or in the next room.”
The Khasi are the anomaly.
Elsewhere in India and in China son preference has been the norm. Skewed by selective abortion and infanticide, sex ratios at birth in China for 2010-2015 have been close to 116 men for every 100 women and in India, 111 to 100.
Geographically, though, sex ratios in China and India vary:
By adding neglect after birth as a third reason for fewer women, we wind up with 66 million “missing women” in China and a shortfall of 41 million women who would have been in the Indian population. And even now, as industrialization, urbanization, education and feminism have diminished son preference, China and India still will not have enough women for their men to marry.
Where are we going? To Asian marriage markets.
The massive distortion in mating patterns is not predicted to start until 2020. At its peak, India could have as many as 186 marriageable men for every 100 available women.
We wind up with a growing marriage queue. To imagine the queue, we can start with a group of women and men who enter the average age range that people marry. Assume that our women are 20-24 and the men are 25-29. Not all can pair because there are too many men. As a result, the leftover men wait for the next group of women in their early 20s. But now you have even more men in the marriage queue and again the same phenomenon occurs. Each time, after the men and women pair, there are leftover men who join the existing queue.
You see what is happening. The queue gets longer and longer. We have joiners, leavers and waiters. The male and female joiners enter the marriage queue. The leavers, the lucky ones, get married. But the waiters remain, perhaps for many years, in an increasingly longer line of unmarried men.
Our Bottom Line: Marriage Markets
Explained by Nobel economics laureate, Gary Becker (1930-2014), forget love and marriage. Instead think supply, demand and marriage markets. On the supply side in India and China, we have a relatively small number of women. Meanwhile, the demand for those women would be considerable because of the glut of men.
However, marriage markets are only one of many economic implications of discrimination against women. Looming largest is the underutilization of female talent that constrains GDP growth.