Adult men 'missing' from Bountiful, polygamy hearing told

The Vancouver Sun/December 9, 2010

Vancouver - The fundamentalist Mormon community of Bountiful, BC is a "highly polygamous" by global and historical standards with a third of the men having more than one wife.

What that means, according to Professor Joseph Henrich is that 30 per cent of the adult men "appear to be missing".

Henrich is a tenured professor in both economics and psychology at the University of B.C. and an expert witness at the constitutional reference trial to determine the validity of Canada's polygamy law.

The data - which is included in one of two affidavits he has filed - indicates that even if one adjusts for some demographic imbalance because women live longer, at least 20 per cent of the men are missing.

The data is a self-census done by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which has 548 members in Bountiful. That head count shows that there are 79 adult men and 104 adult women. There are 30 monogamous couples. But of the polygamous ones, nine men have two wives, four men have three wives and two men have five wives.

One of the other surprising numbers in the head count is the number of children. There are 229 school-aged children and "approximately 114" pre-schoolers.

(Another 500 or so people live in Bountiful, practise polygamy and follow Winston Blackmore, another fundamentalist Mormon leader. And according to other affidavits filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Blackmore has had 26 wives and 136 children).

The imbalance among the FLDS in Bountiful is seen specifically among 16 and 17 year olds. Of the 22, there are nearly three times as many girls as boys - 16 girls and six boys.

"Interestingly," Henrich says, "while there is an excess of never-married males (compared to never-married females), the totals for currently unmarried adult males and females are equal.

"These patterns suggest some combination of an outflow of men and an inflow of women."

What is significant about having a large pool of unmarried men is that research from India and China shows that crime rates rise sharply.

In China, when the number of "surplus" men doubled as a result of selective abortion related to the one-child policy, the crime rate rose 90 per cent. But as Henrich explained, the researchers recognized that there were other factors affecting the crime rate as well.

So, using only property and violent crimes and controlling for economic variables, they concluded that a 0.01 increase in the sex-ratio is associated with a three per cent increase in those crimes.

Using that information plus other research studies and applying it to Bountiful, Henrich predicts in highly polygamous societies where there is a 40 per cent increase in the number of unmarried men, that the murder rate rising by 11 per 100,000; rapes up by 22 per 100,00; and robberies up by 180 per 100,000.

Using other data, Henrich has concluded that in highly polygamous societies - one man, multiple wives - women's equality is substantially reduced.

Using data from the UN Development Program he showed that the empowerment measure for women in Bountiful is one-quarter that of mainstream Canadian women.

Other statistics and studies that he reference indicate that in polygynous societies, the marriage age of females drops, the age gap between spouses rises as does infant mortality and reduced health and education outcomes for women and girls.

Henrich was a witness for the attorney general of B.C. and was cross-examined by the amicus curiae, George Macintosh, who has been appointed to argue against the provincial and federal governments' position that the law should be upheld.

He questioned some of Henrich's conclusions and predictions. But he focused heavily on one of the professor's assertions.

In his affidavit, Henrich wrote: "A non-trivial increase in the incidence of polygamy, which is quite plausible if polygyny were legalized given what we know about both male and female mating preferences, would result in increased crime and anti-social behaviour by the pool of unmarried males it would create."

Macintosh questioned the research done in China during the late 1980s to the mid-1990s. He suggested that the crime statistics might have been skewed by the fact that the government was jailing young male students for crimes they didn't commit.

Macintosh also noted that a previous witness - demographer Zheng Wu - had testified that there is already a pool of 550,000 unmarried men in Canada.

Henrich didn't dispute that, but he did dispute Wu's conclusion that somehow because this is Canada, a rise in crime resulting from a large increase in unmarried men could not happen.

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