The U.S. Census estimates there may be slightly more men than women living in Washington for the first time in more than half a century — a trend some believe is driven by the boom in tech jobs.
Could it be one more side effect of the Amazon boom?
For the first time since 1960, there may be more men than women in Washington.
I write that with some uncertainty because, according to new U.S. Census numbers, the state’s male and female populations are separated by the slimmest of margins.
With 7.1 million residents in Washington, the data shows just 91 more males than females in 2015. No other state comes anywhere close to being so evenly split between the sexes.
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Because there is some wiggle room built into the data, we can’t say definitively if men have truly overtaken women in the state. But it’s clear that we’re trending in that direction.
In 2000, 50.2 percent of the state’s population was female. Women outnumbered men by about 25,000. Ten years later, the gap remained the same.
But since the start of this decade, something changed: Male population growth accelerated, and the gap between the sexes narrowed. By 2015, it was gone.
And so, Washington is poised to join the nine other states — all of them in the West — with more men than women.
Why so few states?
One reason is, of course, that women tend to live longer. There are slightly more males than females at birth. But by age 37, women begin to outnumber men in the U.S. By age 85 and older, more than two out of three Americans are women.
So if a state has more men than women, it likely means that a disproportionate number of men moved there.
“I think that the general consensus is that the male bias in Western states is primarily driven by economic migration,” according to Ryan Schacht, a postdoctoral fellow in anthropology at the University of Utah who has researched the ratio of men to women in American communities.
“Typically male-oriented occupations in, for example, mineral extraction and agriculture and ranching are important draws for men,” he said. Alaska, where oil and gas is the largest industry, is the most male-dominated state.
But more recently, Schacht notes, the growth in the tech sector is having a similar impact in some states.
“These types of jobs also attract more men than women,” he said. “And, population and economic growth in Western states are typically above the national average, furthering the need for housing and infrastructure development — which again, draws more men.”
Census data shows that computer and mathematical careers are the fastest-growing occupations in Washington, having increased by 28 percent between 2010 and 2015.
And of the 150,000 people employed in these fields, 79 percent are men.
In a sense, it’s a throwback to the state’s early days, when timber was the main industry here. Washington, just like other Western territories, was predominantly male.
“These are places to make a name, a fortune,” said Schacht. “Because men are more likely to take risks and leave their natal area, unsurprisingly more of them head west than do women.”
In 1900, as the Klondike Gold Rush came to an end, almost 60 percent of Washington’s population was male.
But gradually, as the state moved away from a frontier economy, the gap between the sexes shrank. The 1970 Census was the first to show that women were in the majority in Washington.
But now, thanks to a new gold rush of sorts — the tech boom — that pattern is reversing once again.