More women than men?

Here is an interesting factoid. It is well established through DNA analysis that throughout most of the
history of humans, more women than men survive to have offspring. It works out to be about 80% of females have offspring, but only about 40% of men do. This makes sense when you realize that the men have often been soldiers and hunters and as a result tended to die more often before having children. Not to mention that going back long enough probably gets you to tribal behavior with the so called “alpha male” in competition with the other males.

Anyway, over time the ratio of male to female babies has generally been 50/50, modulo a very small fraction. If you put these two facts together you can derive a very surprising but inescapable conclusion, namely that we all have more female ancestors than male ancestors.

One observation I have about people that I have told this to is that they all seem to go through 4 phases when thinking about it. Here are the names I have given these phases:

  1. Impossible!
  2. On average.
  3. Incest?!
  4. Aha!

Not everyone goes through all four, and some people get stuck at one or another. I do assure you that you have more female ancestors than male ones. I am proud to say that my son Nathan did go through all four, but he did it in less then 10 seconds. Way to go Nathan!

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