Sexes, Ages, and Condition as to Marriage

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1. Sexes.

The 29,002,525 persons who formed the population of England and Wales at the date of the census consisted, according to the returns, of 14,052,901 males, and 14,949,624 females. This gives an excess of 896,723 females over males, an excess which would, however, be reduced to about 700,00 if the English and Welsh members of the army, navy, and merchant service abroad were included in the reckoning.

There is, however, reason to believe that the number of males is somewhat understated, while that of females has received a corresponding addition. The cause of this is somewhat curious and is as follows. In the enumeration books are two columns, side by side, headed males and females respectively, and it is the duty of the enumerator to copy the ages of the persons as given in the schedules into these columns, which afterwards are used by the clerks in tabulation. From time to time the enumerator makes a slip and enters the age in the wrong column; but, as the two are precisely alike, it was supposed that the erroneous entry was as likely to occur in the one column as the other, and that the mistakes might therefore be considered as balancing each other. An examination, however, of a number of books has shewn that this is not the case. Each enumerator appears to have a personal tendency to make his errors in the same column, some in that on the left hand, some in that on the right; and the majority make them preferentially in the latter, which is the column headed females. Consequently there is a greater transfer from males to females than in the contrary direction. We have taken much pains to ascertain what is the total amount of error thus caused, and have found that its probable limits are between five and ten thousand, and can scarcely exceed the higher limit. But in a population of over 29,000,000, an erroneous transfer of 10,000 males to the female total is plainly such as for all practical purposes may be disregarded. The cause of the error is however, so curious that we have thought it worth while to place it on record.

Changes in the proportions of the sexes

The proportion of females to males in the population of England and Wales was 1,057 to 1,000 in 1801; it then declined, census after census, though with some irregularity, down to 1851, when it stood at 1,042 to 1,000. But after that a change in the opposite direction set in, and ever since there has been a slight but continuous increase in the female proportion, the figures in each of the last five censuses having been as follows:—

In 1851 1,042 to 1,000 males   In 1881 1,055 to 1,000 males.
In 1861 1,053 to 1,000 males   In 1891 1,064 to 1,000 males.
In 1871 1,054 to 1,000 males      

There are three, and only three, factors to which, either singly or in combination, this continuous change since 1851 in the sex-distribution of the people may be attributable. It may possibly be that the proportion of male births to female births has progressively declined; or secondly, it may be that the proportion of the male death-rate to the female death-rate has progressively increased; or, lastly, it may be that the volume of emigration, which always affects the male portion of the population in greater proportion than the female, has been growing larger and larger. Let us examine these three possible explanations separately; and, firstly, as to the birth-rate. In the first column of the following table is given the proportion of male to 1,000 female births in each of five successive decennia and it will be seen that it has in fact become continuously smaller and smaller; though in the last decenninm, 1881-90, the falling off was so slight that it may almost be disregarded. Some part then, if only a trifling part, of the increased preponderance of females in the population may be attributed to the continuous decline in the proportion of boys among children born in this country.

The second column in the table gives, for the same five decennia, the number of male deaths to 1,000 female deaths, out of equal numbers living of each sex; and it will be seen that, with the exception of the last decenninm, the male death-rate has been continuously increasing as compared with the female death-rate, and this not inconsiderably. This factor also must, therefore, have contributed in some measure to the increased preponderance of the female sex at each successive census down to 1881. But it can have had no share in the increased proportion of females in the population of 1891; for in the decennium immediately preceding that year, the proportion borne by the male to the female mortality declined, as the table shows; so that the operation of this factor in the last decennium must have been to reduce the female preponderance; whereas, as a matter of fact, the proportion of females to 1,000 males rose, as we have already seen, from 1,055 in 1881 to 1,054 in 1881 to 1,064 in 1891.

Decennium. Births of males
to 1,000 births of
Deaths of males to
1,000 deaths of
females out of equal
living numbers.
1841-50 1,049 1,070
1851-60 1,046 1,079
1861-70 1,042 1,109
1871-80 1,038 1,131
1881-90 1,037 1,123

The combined result of the two factors we have been considering, that is the changed proportion in regard to sex of the births and deaths, would not have been to raise the proportion of females to 1,000 males in the population, but to reduce it from 1,055, where it stood in 1881, to 1,047 in 1891. The change in proportion, therefore, which really occurred was not due to these factors, but occurred in spite of them, and was wholly attributable to the effects of migration, including under that term all arrivals into, and all departures out of, the confines of England and Wales in the last intercensal period; and the following figures show that the excess of such departures over arrivals during that period must have consisted of 407,665 males and 193,723 females, or in round numbers, two of the former to one of the latter sex.

Males. Females.
Enumerated Population in 1881 12,639,902 13,334,537
Add intercensal births 4,528,577 4,365,343
  17,168,479 17,699,880
Deduct intercensal deaths 2,707,913 2,556,533
Population in 1891 by "natural increment" 14,460,566 15,143,347
Actual population enumerated in 1891 14,052,901 14,949,624
Difference being loss by excess of departure over arrivals in the
intercensal period
407,665 193,723

Differences in sex distribution in different counties

The sex distribution of the population differs very greatly in different parts of the country; and, as may be seen in Table 1.5, Appendix A (p. 109), the differences in this respect between one Registration County and another repeat themselves with a high degree of constancy Census after Census; that is to say, those counties in which the female sex was largely predominant in 1891 are also as a rule the counties which showed a like predominance at the earlier enumerations; and similarly with those in which the opposite condition obtained. The general explanation is, of course, that men and women respectively are attracted to those parts which offer them the best chances of suitable employment, and that the differences between the counties in this respect are not very liable to change.

The following are the ten Registration Counties in which the proportion of females was lowest, and the ten in which it was highest, in 1891.

Proportion of Females to 1,000 Males.

Lowest.   Highest.
Glanmorganshire 908   Cardiganshire 1,274
Monmouthshire 934   Sussex 1,171
Durham 963   Cornwall 1,160
Flintshire 992   Gloucestershire 1,150
Denbighshire 997   Middlesex 1,139
N. Riding of Yorkshire 1,000   Somersetshire 1,137
Derbyshire 1,001   Bedfordshire 1,129
Staffordshire 1,002   Surrey 1,123
Northumberland 1,006   Devonshire 1,123
Brecknockshire 1,008   London 1,116

It will be noticed that every one of the ten in which the female proportion was its lowest, and the male proportion consequently at its highest, was a mining county while among the ten in which the female sex was most predominant were Sussex Middlesex, Surrey, Devonshire and London, all of which are residential counties, in which there is a great demand for governesses, milliners, and domestic servants; while another is Bedfordshire with a special female industry in the shape of straw plaiting. As regards Cardiganshire, Gloucestershire, and Somersetshire explanation is more difficult. They all, it is true, contain residential towns or watering-places, as Aberystwith, Clifton, Cheltenham and Bath, where there is a considerable amount of occupation open to women as servants; but this is by no means an adequate explanation, for the exclusion of these towns from the calculation, though it reduces the excess of females in each of the counties, still, leaves that sex exceptionally predominant. In Gloucestershire and in Somersetshire a supplementary explanation may be found in the presence of not inconsiderable textile industries that largely employ female hands, to which is further added in Somersetshire glove-making, also mainly a female industry; but as regards Cardiganshire, in which county the female predominance has for five successive censuses been far greater than in any other county, we have failed to find any adequate explanation, and must leave the question to those who possess local knowledge. A partial explanation may, however, be possibly found in the fact that Cardiganshire is (cf. p. 82) the county in which (excepting only Merionethshire) there is the largest proportion of monoglot Welsh persons, and that, consequently, the women of that county are, to an exceptional extent, debarred from that occupation which, especially takes women away from their homes to distant parts, namely, domestic service. A monoglot Welshwoman would clearly be ineligible for service in an English district. There remains Cornwall. In this county it is only since 1861 that the proportion of males in the population has been so small; which leads one to suspect that the cause is to be found in the decline of copper and tin mining, and the consequent lack of male occupation. Probably Cornwall contributed a sensible contingent to the 42,990 miners of British or Irish origin who emigrated from the United Kingdom in the course of the ten years 1881-90.

Passing from counties to towns, it may be noticed that, as a general rule, the proportion of women in the population is much higher in towns than in country districts. Taking the Urban Districts in the aggregate there were, in 1891,109 females to 100 males, while in the aggregate Rural Districts there were only 101. It will be convenient, however, to defer the consideration of this fact until we have dealt with ages in the next section.

2. Ages.

Ignorance of adults as to their precise age

A very large proportion of persons, not improbably indeed the greater number of adults, do not know their precise age, and can only state it approximately. Such persons, as was shown in the last Census Report, have a great tendency to return their age as some exact multiple of ten, that is as 30, 40, 50, 60, &c., though in reality they may be a year or two on one or the other side of that precise number. Consequently if the ages be grouped by quinquennial periods, the figures for the successive quinquennia are alternately too high or too low, accordingly as they include or do not include a year that is an exact multiple of ten. Therefore, although the ages have been abstracted, and are given in these returns, by quinquennia, it is better for such purposes as require accuracy—for instance, in the calculation of rates of mortality to make use preferentially of decennial periods, and to arrange these in such a way that the year which is a multiple of ten shall come in the middle of the period; that is to say, to use such age-periods as 25-35, 35-45, &c., rather than 30-40, 40-50, &c. It is not, however, until one or two decennia of life have passed away that this forgetfulness of age manifests itself. In the earlier periods the exact year of life is pretty certain to be retained in memory, and consequently it is unnecessary to take the above precaution when dealing with these earlier periods of life. Quinquennia can there be used with comparative safety, and be arranged in such way as may be most convenient. On this account the age-periods recognised in the official statistics of mortality consist of quinquennia up to the age of 25. and after that of decennia.

Untrustworthiness of ages of young children

The first quinquennium has further been broken up into single years, and the number living at each of these five years stated separately. We are, however, bound to say that these single year returns are, in our opinion, excessively untrustworthy, owing to the vagueness with which parents use the terms "one year old," "two years old," &c., in speaking of their children, sometimes meaning that the child is in its first or second year, as the case may be, sometimes that it has completed that year of life. This tendency on the part of parents to state the age of a child as it will be at the next ensuing birthday, rather than as it was at the last birthday is probably attributable in part to such being the manner in which the age has to be stated for insurance purposes, the life insurance of children being so general that, according to evidence given recently before a Select Committee of the House of Lords,1 more than 2,000,000 children under 10 years of age, or nearly one third of all living, were insured in a single large Insurance office, while nearly another third were believed to be insured elsewhere.

The total effect of this cause of error upon the returns of children under five years of age can only be estimated approximately. From calculations, however, based on the data supplied by the registers of births and deaths, and by the statistics of emigration, we think we shall not be very wide of the mark in estimating that there is an understatement of from 50,000 to 60,000 in the aggregate number of children living in their first quinquennium of life, these 50,000 to 60,000 being transferred to the next quinquennium. This is, after all, a trifling proportion, seeing that the number returned in the first age-period in 1891 exceeded 3,500,000.

Wilful mis-statement of age

Another cause of inaccuracy in the age tables is one which more especially affects women; and consists in the wilful mis-statement of their age, owing to their desire for various reasons to be thought to be between 20 and 25 years of age.

This is shown by the fact that in each successive census the number of women returning themselves as between 20 and 25 years of age is larger than the number of girls returned in the census of ten years earlier as being between 10 and 15; although the former are only the survivors, after a lapse of ten years, of these latter, and should therefore of necessity be fewer in number.

Here is a table showing the occurrence of this curious phenomenon at several successive enumerations.

Date of
Girls enumerated as
10 and under 15
years of age at each
Woman enumerated
as 20 and under 25
years of age 10 Years
Calculated Survivors
of the Girls in Col. 1
10 years later, on the
Basis of the last
English Life Table? .
Excess per cent.
of Enumerated
over Calculated
in Col.3.
Column. 1. 2. 3. 4.
1841 851,736 871,152 812,408 7.2
1851 949,362 969,283 905,526 7
1861 1,046,287 1,052,843 997,022 5.6
1871 1,203,469 1,215,872 1,147,900 5.9
1881 1,398,101 1,399,066 1,333,445 4.9
? Life Table for England and Wales based on the deaths registered in the 10 years 1871-80, and published in the Supplement to the Registrar-General's Forty-fifth Annual Report, pp. vii. and viii.

It will be noticed in this table, that the young women of 20 to 25 years of age have invariably been more numerous than were the girls of 10 to 15 at the next preceding enumeration. But it should also be noticed that the amount of mis-statement appears to be gradually, but unmistakably, diminishing. Assuming the figures in the third column of the table, which gives the survivors by the most recent English Life Table, to be a correct estimate of the numbers really living between 20 and 25, the excess due to mis-statement was 7.2 per cent. in 1851, and fell successively to 7.0, 5.6, 5.9, and 4.9 per cent. in the later enumerations.

Although wilful mis-statement of age is doubtlessly much more common among women than among men, there is probably some wilful mis-statement in this sex also. There are definite advantages offered to men of the poorer classes, who have passed the age of sixty. They alone, if still able bodied, are entitled to out-of-door relief; and, if inmates of workhouses, have certain privileges allowed them, which are not given to those of younger ages. We have found reason to believe, from minute examination of the figures, that these or some other causes have led to some over-statement of the numbers of men in the 65-75 years age-period at the expense of the next lowest age-period, 55-65 years.

Tendency of old persons to overstate their age

Another, but less serious, source of inaccuracy in the age tables, and one which affects both sexes alike, is the tendency of old persons to over-state their age. In consequence of this well known habit, very little trust should be put in the Quinquennial or even the decennial totals at the advanced ages, and it will be safer for all practical uses to make a single group in which all persons of 85 years and upwards shall be included.

The number of persons returned in 1891 as being 100 or more years of age was 146 of whom 104 were women and only 42 were men. The numbers had been much the same in the returns for 1881, when 141 persons, 97 of whom were women and 44 were men, were returned as entitled to centenarian honours. Although it is indisputable that now and then human life is prolonged to over a century, yet this is so rare an occurrence, that it may be doubted whether the age of many of these reputed centenarians would stand the test of rigid investigation.

Such are the main causes that affect the accuracy of the age returns, and that probably affect them seriously. The age figures, and especially those of the female sex, must be looked on as no more than approximative, arid the shorter the age-period the greater must be the margin allowed for possible mis-statement, the most untrustworthy figures of all being for the single year periods in the first quinquennium.

It is convenient, however, for many purposes to have an estimate, even though no more than approximative, of the number of persons living at each year of life. It has been shown already that the mode in which persons return their ages does not allow of this information being derived by direct abstraction from the enumeration books. A more correct estimate can really be made by taking the numbers returned for longer periods of life—quinquennia, for instance, or still better decennia—and dividing these out to the individual years by interpolation. The series of figures thus obtained will, of course, present a greater regularity than actually exists, but will be sufficiently close to the truth for all practical purposes, and at any rate will be much closer to the truth than any series founded on direct abstraction for single years of life. We have, therefore, constructed such a graduated table (Appendix A., Table 11) by the method of differences. In this table the totals agree with the enumerated totals, raised to the middle of the year 1891, for the following life-periods:—

0 and under 5 years.   45 and under 55 years.
5 and under 10 years   55 and under 65 years
10 and under 15 years   65 and under 75 years
15 and under 25 years   75 and under 85 years
25 and under 35 years   85 and under 95 years
35 and under 45 years   95 and upwards.

The totals for each age-period, excepting the first, have been apportioned to the severals years within that period by interpolation. But the first age-period (0 and under 5 years) has been dealt with on another plan, the enumerated total for this period of life having been divided out to the several years within it in proportions determined by calculation from the registers of births and deaths; and, inasmuch as the birth-rates and death-rates of children showed considerable changes in the successive years 1886-1891, the series of figures for this first quinquennium of life is necessarily irregular. It has already been mentioned that, according to such estimate as we can form, the total for this first age-period is itself considerably understated. But notwithstanding this, we have retained the total in our graduated table without correction, because the same cause which leads to the understatement of the number of children living under five years of age will lead also to a similar understatement of the numbers dying at that period of life; and consequently a correction of the living total would interfere with the calculation of death-rates, which is one of the main uses of the age-tables.

Taking the graduated table as our basis, we may estimate the numbers living, in the middle of 1891, at several important periods of life to have been as follows:—

Children under school age

The number of infants and young children who were not as yet of school age, that is who were under three years of age in the middle of 1891, was 2,185,781, and actually smaller than the number recorded 10 years earlier which had been 2,192,871. This decline is fully accounted for by the extraordinarily low birth-rates in the three years, 1888-89-90; for the 2,185,781 form 82.9 per cent. of the children whose births were registered in those years; while the 2,192,871 of 1881 were 82.6 per cent. of the registered births in 1878-79-80.

Children of school age

The children of school-age, that is of from 3 to 13 years of age, numbered 6,750 022, and considerably exceeded the number recorded in 1881, which was 6,218,258. They bore, however, a somewhat smaller proportion to the total population than was the case in 1881, for in that year they were 23.9 per cent. of the whole, whereas in 1891 they were but 23.2 per cent. The difference, it will be seen, is very slight; and for practical purposes, it will be sufficient for educational authorities to assume—subject, of course, to local peculiarities—that 24 per cent. of the population are children who should, according to the law, be in receipt of education.

Minors and persons of full age

The number of young persons legally under age, that is who had not yet completed their 21st year, was 13,716,470, and of these 6,802,236 were males while 6,914,234 were females. Thus 47 per cent. of the total population of both sexes, 48 per cent. of the males and 46 per cent. of the females, were minors.

The number of persons of legally full age in the middle of 1891 was 15,366,115, and of these 7,289,456 were men, and 8,076,659 were women. Ten years earlier the numbers had been 6,428,371 men and 7,071,788 women, or altogether 13,500,159 persons. The adults therefore had increased by 13.8 per cent. in the course of 10 years, and in somewhat larger proportion than the total population, of which the increase was only 11.7 per cent.

Recruiting age

The number of males of recruiting ages, that is of from 18 to 25 years of age, was 1,828,694, being 13.9 per cent. more than the number of corresponding ages in. 1881.

Military age

The number of men of military ages, which we may take as from 18 to 45 years, was 5,538,995, to whom may further be added 129,076 others, natives of England or Wales, who were serving in the Army or Royal Navy outside the limits of that portion of the United Kingdom.

Reproductive age

The number of women in the reproductive age-period, which we may roughly consider as lasting from the end of the 17th to the end of the 45th year of life, was 6,291,773 and of these, disregarding the few exceptional cases where the wife was under 17 years of age, some 3 millions were married and with living husbands. The number of men of corresponding ages was 5,828,714.

Age of superannuation

The number of persons who were returned as being 65 or more years of age, and who had therefore reached what is ordinarily taken to be the time of retirement from active work, was 1,376,390, and consisted of 608,261 men and 768,129 women, showing an increase of 13.2 per cent. in the case of the men, and of 17.2 per cent. in the case of the women, over the numbers returned of corresponding age in 1881; and it is to be noted that the increase in each case was consider ably, greater than the increase of the aggregate population of all ages and corresponding sex.

Changes in the age-distribution of the people

The age-distribution of the population as a rule changes but slightly from census to census, as may be seen in Table 14 appended to this Report. But in 1891 the alteration was exceptionally large, the most notable feature in the change being the great decline in the proportion borne by the children under 10 to the total population. This decline was of course due to the extremely low birth-rates of the 10 years 1881-90, during which period it only averaged annually 32.5 per 1,000 living, whereas the averages in the two preceding decennia had been respectively 35.2 and 35.4. The diminished proportion of children throws up of course the proportions at the later ages; but, if all children under ten_ years of age be excluded from the calculation, the age-distribution of the remainder of the population does not differ very materially from the distribution in 1881, such slight changes as have occurred not being greater than might be anticipated from the unequal effect of increased emigration and altered death-rates upon different age-periods.

Different age distribution of males and females

The age-distribution differed much in the two sexes; and, as is shown in the following table, the proportion of young males to males of all ages was much higher than the proportion of young females to all females.

MALES and FEMALES UNDER and OVER 25 YEARS of AGE per MILLION living of EACH SEX in 1891. Army, Navy, Marines and Merchant Seamen, of English and Welsh Birth, serving Abroad, included.

Sex. Under 25. 25 and upwards.
Males 553,202 446,798
Females 534,140 465,860

To this difference between the sexes, which is one that repeats itself in each census, three causes contribute. In the first place, the number of male births, that is the number of young males added each year to the community, is always considerably higher than the number of female births; secondly, more males than females disappear by emigration, a loss which affects those over 25 years more than those under that age; thirdly, and lastly, female life is of longer duration than male life, so that there is an accumulation of females at the later ages.

Differences of age-distribution in urban and rural districts

Age-distribution differs also very considerably in different localities, and notably in the urban as compared with the rural districts. In towns there is always an abnormal proportion of adults in the working period of life, who are drawn from without by the higher wages and other attractions of urban life. This excessive proportion of comparatively young men and women necessarily involves diminished proportions at other age periods; but, as the adults in midlife are of reproductive ages, the large number of infants born to a considerable extent counteracts the effect so far as the earliest age-periods are concerned, and, indeed, when marriage-rates and birth-rates are high, sometimes counteracts it to such an extent as to cause an excessive proportion of children in the population; so that the whole compensation for the abnormal proportion in midlife and at the earlier ages has to be met by the advanced age-periods, Thus the, proportion of aged persons in the population comes to be much lower in the, towns than elsewhere. Now it has already been pointed out in the last section that there in a great difference between town and country in the proportionate numbers of males and females in their respective populations; and combining this difference as to sex proportions with the differences as to age-distribution we have the results given in the following table:—


to 100 Males.
Persons. Males. Females. Persons. Males. Females. Urban
All ages 1,000,000 479,268 520,732 1,000,000 498,131 501,869 109 101
0— 122,524 60,906 61,618 122,521 61,045 61,476 101 101
5— 115,343 57,428 57,915 121,504 60,859 60,645 101 100
10— 109,405 54,149 55,256 115,639 59,133 56,506 102 96
15— 103,429 49,865 53,564 97,405 52,204 45,201 107 87
20— 95,551 44,260 51,291 80,155 39,782 40,373 116 101
25— 157,413 74,520 82,893 134,266 65,608 68,658 111 105
35— 117,719 56,781 60,938 107,193 52,375 54,818 107 105
45— 85,188 40,353 44,835 88,420 42,999 45,421 111 106
55— 53,264 24,175 29,089 67,106 32,685 34,421 120 105
65— 29,658 12,721 16,937 45,658 22,090 23,568 133 107
75— 9,365 3,729 5,836 17,679 8,333 9,346 151 112
85 and upwards 1,141 381 760 2,454 1,018 1,436 199 141
NOTE.—London and the Urban Sanitary Districts are taken in this Table to represent the Urban Districts, and the remainder of England and Wales constitutes the Rural Districts.

The main points of difference disclosed in this table between urban and rural districts are as follows:—In the towns there is a great excess, as compared with the country, of persons from 15 to 45 years of age; while, excepting among young children under five, there is a deficiency at all other age-periods.

At the first age-period, 0-5 years, there is practically no difference between town and country, the proportion being for a million of all ages 122,524 in the one, and 122,521 in the other; for though, as already pointed out, more infants are born in proportion to population in towns than elsewhere, the exceptionally low birth-rates of 1886-90 reduced this cause of difference to a minimum, so that the town excess of births was not more than was counterbalanced by the much higher infantile mortality of towns than of rural districts.

Indeed, when the town-born children have been exposed for over five years to this higher rate of mortality, their original numerical excess is converted into a deficiency, and there is, as the table shows, a considerably smaller proportion of children between five and ten in the towns than in the rural population.

Passing from the columns headed "Persons" to those which give the figures for each sex separately, we have the following additional contrasts. The proportion of females to males, of all ages, is much higher in towns than in the country, being 109 to 100 in the former, but only 101 to 100 in the latter. Up to 10 years of age, however, there is practically no difference in this respect between the two sets of districts; in each of them the proportion of males is almost identically the same as the proportion of the other sex. But, the age of ten past, girls who are still tinder 15 begin to migrate into the towns as domestic servants, leaving their brothers behind, and, consequently, the female proportion now becomes considerably higher in the urban than in the rural districts; and, this migration of girls continuing, the difference becomes still more decided in the next period, 15-20 years, when in the towns there are 107 girls to 100 lads, while in the country there are only 87.

It may be noted, in passing, that it is at these two age-periods alone, that is between 10 and 20, that males are in excess of the other sex, and this only in the rural districts; at all other and later ages females predominate in town and country a like.

The migration, then, of girls into the towns begins earlier than that of boys. The migration of these latter, however, soon sets in; and, though it is never of sufficient volume to bring the proportion of the two sexes in towns to a level, it reduces the inequality between them very considerably during all the more active working ages, namely from the end of the 25th to the end of the 45th year of life.

This age past, the disproportion between the sexes in the urban population again increases, and becomes more and more marked with each advance of age, until in the last age-period, 85 years and upwards, the towns have 99 per cent. more women than men, The disproportion increases also in the rural districts, but neither so soon, nor to nearly so great an extent/as in the towns; for in the 55-65 years period the women are 20 per cent. more numerous in towns than the men, but only five per cent. more numerous in the country; in the 65-75 years period the excess is 33 per cent. in the towns and only seven per cent. in the country; in the 75-85 period 51 per cent. in towns and 12 per cent. in the country; and, finally, when 85 is reached, the excess of women becomes in the towns, as already stated, 99 per cent., while it is only 41 per cent. in the rural districts.

This increasing excess of females in the later age-periods, so far as it is common to towns and country, is, of course, due to the fact that women are longer lived than men; they survive when these die off. But how is the much greater excess in the towns than in the country to be accounted for?

There are but two possible explanations. It may be that men as they get old leave the towns and retire into the country to a much greater extent than do the women; or it may be that the differences between the conditions of town life and the conditions of rural life are more inimical to old men than to women of corresponding ages. It is probable that both explanations are true, and that the result is due to their combination.

Let us briefly consider these two possible explanations separately. The death-rate of adult males is, as is well-known, higher than that of the other sex at every age-period; and this both in towns and in country. But the difference between the rate is much greater in the former than in the latter. We may take London to represent the towns, and Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Dorsetshire, Wiltshire, and Herefordshire to represent the rural districts. Now, in London the average annual death-rate in 1881-90 of men of from 55 to 65 years of age, as compared with the death-rate of women of corresponding age, was 134 to 100; but in the five rural counties mentioned above it was only 116 to 100. In the next age-period, 65 to 75 years, the ratio was 123 to 100 in London, but only 114 to 100 in the rural counties; and after this age the proportions were respectively 113 and 110 to 100.

The much greater disproportion, then, between men and women of advanced ages in towns than in the country is explained, at any rate in part by the fact that urban life is for some reason or other exceptionally fatal to elderly men; men die earlier than women both in country and in towns, but more so in the latter than in the former.

The other assumed explanation is one of which no actual statistical proof can be given. Men however, become, as a rule, incapacitated for work at an earlier age than women to whom towns offer, even in advanced age, many comparatively light occupations that are closed to the other sex. There is, therefore, more inducement to women than to men to remain in towns when they have grown old, and especially so as town life is as we have seen, much less healthy for men than for women. It is, then, a probable assumption that men retire from towns into the country at an earlier age and in greater proportion than do women.

This question of age and sex distribution is not a matter of mere curiosity but of much practical importance in vital statistics; for, as the death-rates differ very greatly at different ages and in the two sexes, when an attempt is made to compare the healthiness of one locality with that of another locality, or of one trade with that of another trade, on the basis of their respective mortalities, it is not enough to take the general death-rates of the two as the basis of comparison, unless it has been first ascertained that the age and Hex distribution in the two is the same, or sufficiently near for all practical purposes. For manifestly, all other conditions being alike, that community which contains the largest proportion of individuals of the sex and ages most liable to fatal disease will have the higher death-rate. No satisfactory comparison, therefore, can be instituted between one area and another, say between England and any foreign country, in the matter of death-rates, unless these rates are calculated in each case on one standard population, that is, a population with a certain fixed age and sex distribution.

We may illustrate this by the following example. Let us suppose that the urban and rural districts were equally healthy so far as can be measured by their mortalities; that is to say, let us suppose that the death-rate in each sex at each separate age-period was identically the same in the two sets of districts, and let us further suppose that these death-rates were those of all England and Wales in 1881-90. Applying these rates to the urban and rural population with the age and sex distribution shown in the last table, the death-rate in the urban districts per 1,000 living of all ages would be 18.1, while the death-rate in the rural districts would be 20.8; and the difference would be simply the result of differences in age and sex distribution.

Errors are so frequently made by neglecting to take this factor into consideration, that it may be well to give another illustration of its importance.

It has been often pointed out that the proportion of paupers, that is, of persons relieved at the expense of the rates, to the total population is habitually much higher in rural than in urban districts. What may be the full explanation of this fact it is not for us to inquire; but we may point out that no explanation can be satisfactory that does not take into account the vast difference in age and sex distribution of the urban and rural population. For pauperism, as we shall see later on (p. 78) is much more common among men than among women, and among old persons of course than among those who are comparatively young; and, as we have already seen, there is a much larger proportion, both of men and of old persons in the population of rural than in that of the urban districts. Some part, at any rate, of the higher amount of pauperism in the country must be due to this cause.

3. Condition as to Marriage or Civil Condition.

The average annual marriage-rate in the period between the Censuses of 1881 and 1891 was very considerably lower than that of the next preceding decennium; and it might perhaps be supposed that in consequence of this the proportion of married and widowed persons in the population would also show a considerable falling off; but, as a matter of fact, this was not the case, for, as may be seen in the following table, the proportions were maintained with scarcely perceptible change, though such slight alterations as occurred were in the direction anticipated.

in the POPULATION, per 1,000 living, 1881 and 1891.

1881 620 346 34 592 333 75
1891 620 345 35 596 329 75

The explanation of this seeming paradox lies in the fact that though a decline in the marriage-rate primarily diminishes the proportion of married men and women in the population, it has also the secondary effect of diminishing the number of children born, and thus also cuts down the proportion of the unmarried. There are also other factors that take part in determining the ultimate result, such as the relative proportions in which the married and the unmarried emigrate, and the different degrees in which the death-rates at the earlier, and chiefly unmarried, ages, and the death-rates at the later, and mainly married, ages have undergone diminution. The curious thing is that the sum of all the various factors should have balanced each other so nicely that practically no change whatsoever has been brought about in the proportions.

Of the male population 8,716,363 were unmarried and 484,990 were widowers, while the spinsters and widows numbered respectively 8,908,665 and 1,124,310 these excesses the female side are of course readily intelligible, when it is borne in mind that the number of females of all conditions exceeds that of males that the life of women is prolonged on an average several years beyond the life of men, and that widowers re-marry to a much greater extent than widows.

It might, however, be expected that the number of married men would be precisely the saint as that of married women. But this was not the case. The men returned as husbands numbered 4,851,548, while the women returned as wives were 4,916,649, or 65,101 more than the men. A similar excess of wives will be found in the records of each past census, * and is to be explained by a certain number of husbands being temporarily abroad, while their wives are at home, and probably by some women returning themselves as wives, who have no strict right to the designation.

Diminished fecundity of marriage

Of the enumerated wives 3,243,532 had not completed their 45th year, which, disregarding occasional exceptions, may be taken to be the limit of the reproductive period in women. The number of legitimate births registered in the three years 1890 1891 and 1892 was 2,567,277, so that the average annual fertility of wives of reproductive ages in those three years is represented by 264 live births to 1,000 wives. Similar calculations made from the returns of 1881 and 1871 give annual fertilities of 286 and 292 per 1,000 wives; so that, so far as can be judged from these years, the annual fertility of married life appears to have been gradually diminishing, having fallen successively from 292 to 286 and then to 264, per 1,000 wives, in the three past decennia.

This apparent decline in fecundity may be explained, at any rate in some measure, by the falling off in the marriage-rate; for such falling off will reduce the proportion of newly married women among the wives under 45, and, as fecundity, speaking generally, is greater in the earlier years of marriage than later on, will to some extent pull down the average number of children. The mean age also of women at the time of marriage has been increasing, as is shown in the Registrar-General's Annual Reports, and it may be that this also has tended to lower the average fecundity of marriage.

Condition as to marriage in relation to age

Of the male population of all ages, 35 per cent. were married men, while of the female population only 33 per cent. were wives; but if not only those? who had living wives or husbands, but also widowers and widows, are taken into account, the proportions become 38 per cent. for the men, and 40 per cent for the women. The relative proportions, however, vary very greatly at different ages, as is shown in the following table, where the proportions of single, married, and widowed are given for each sex per 10,000 living at each successive age-period.


All ages 6,203 3,452 345 5,959 3,289 752
Under 15 10,000 10,000
15— 9,962 38 9,805 194 1
20— 8,056 1,927 17 7,011 2,962 27
25— 3,425 6,455 120 3,260 6,526 214
35— 1,466 8,189 345 1,644 7,607 749
45— 999 8,273 728 1,241 7,059 1,700
55— 844 7,710 1,446 1,102 5,726 3,172
65 and upwards 731 5,904 3,365 1,075 3,186 5,739
* The excess in 1861 was 60,509; in 1871 was 65,164; and in 1881 was 61,064.

In both sexes the proportion of unmarried diminishes with each successive age-period As regards the earlier age-periods this is readily intelligible, because marriage as well as death, thins the ranks of the single until marriage-age is past; but it is not so easy to see why the reduction in the proportion should go on in the advanced age-periods, say after the 55th year of life, when marriages must be too few to affect the proportion in any sensible degree. Apparently no other adequate explanation can be given of this persistent weeding out of the bachelors and spinsters, even in advanced life, than by supposing that their mortality is higher than that of married persons of similar ages. If this be the case, it is a noteworthy fact. At the earlier ages doubtlessly the mortality of the single must be higher than that of the married, because the very unhealthy of either sex are likely; to remain unwedded, but one would have supposed that, when the advanced age-periods were reached, this cause of reduced proportion would have worn itself out, and ceased any longer to be operative; and, if so, we are left to the conclusion that married life must in itself be more favourable to longevity than the condition of celibacy.

In both sexes the proportion of the widowed naturally increases with the advance of age. In both, also, the proportion of the married increases for a time, namely among woman up to the 35-15 years period, and in men up to the 45-55 years period, and then falls off continuously. But the earlier age at which women marry, and the greater average length of their lives, causes the proportion of spinsters to be less than the proportion of bachelors at the earlier ages, and the proportion of widows to be greater at every age than the proportion of widowers.

1 Report on Children's Life Insurance Bill, 1890 (225), Questions 2792 and 2812.

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