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Gender Gap Gets Smaller

The marriage market offers more promise for American women seeking a spouse, with the male population growing at a faster rate than females in the past decade, according to 2000 census data released Sunday.

Women still outnumber men in the United States but the Census Bureau said the gender gap had narrowed during the 1990s, due largely to a rise in immigration and the fact that men lived longer because of healthier lifestyles and medical advances.

In 2000, there were 138.1 million men, a 14 percent increase from 1990, and 143.4 million women, a 13 percent rise from the previous census. Females made up 50.9 percent of the population in 2000, against 51.3 a decade earlier.

That works out to 96.3 men for every 100 women in 2000. The gap has been closing steadily since 1980, when the male-female ratio was 94.5-to-100.

"The greatest increase in the male-female ratio between 1990 and 2000 was in the age group 75 to 84," said Renee Spraggins of the Census Bureau.

The National Center for Health Statistics said the life expectancy for women in 1999 was 79.4 years versus 73.9 years for men, against 74.4 years for women in 1969 and 66.8 for men that year.

Death rates for men are declining at a faster pace than for women Spraggins said. In general, people are living longer thanks to healthier lifestyles and medical technology.

Demographer and sociologist Philip Cohen from the University of California, Irvine, said the figures meant there would be fewer widows and more choices for elderly women seeking a spouse.

"This is good news for the marriage market, especially for older women who will have more men available," said Cohen.

Immigration also has brought more men into the country, Spraggins said. Historically, male immigrants tend to settle into a home and job first before the rest of the family arrives in the country.

Demographers have said the Hispanic population, which went up 58 percent during the decade to 35.3 million, increased at a faster-than-expected rate because of immigration.

The male-female ratio for Hispanics in 2000 was 105.9-to-100. By comparison, the ratio for Americans who chose only non-Hispanic white as their race was 95.7-to-100.

Alaska, with more traditionally male jobs such as logging and oil available, had the highest male-female ratio followed by Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah.

The lowest male-female ratios were in the District of Columbia, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The female population grew at a faster rate than the male population in three states - Alaska, California and Hawaii.

Of the 10 largest cities, the male population exceeded the female population in Phoenix, San Diego and Dallas.

Philadelphia and Detroit had the lowest female ratios.

Spraggins said areas where there were high concentrations of men could usually be traced to big prison populations or a military base as well as the kind of work available.

© MMI, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and Reuters Limited contributed to this report

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