Bachelor Farmers in France: An Explanation by Evolutionary Psychology

Bachelor Farmers in France: An Explanation by Evolutionary Psychology

François Facchini (Centre d’économie de la Sorbonne (Axe Institution), France) and Raul Magni Berton (Grenoble University, France)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/ijabe.2012040103
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Abstract

This article uses some evolutionary psychological micro hypotheses to explain the high number of bachelor farmers in France. The authors argue that three factors are responsible for farmers remaining single: their low average income, the migration of females away from rural areas and a steady rise in the divorce rate. According to the theory of sexual selection, the authors can expect females for whom wealth is a criterion in their choice of partner to migrate where the average income is higher. Growth in the number of divorces further increases the scarcity of younger females. The authors then show that when the divorce rate is high, young farmers are even more affected by the phenomenon of bachelorhood.
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1. Introduction

In this article, we propose an explanation for the high level of bachelorhood among farmers in France. In 1990, according to the French Institute for statistics and economic data (INSEE), for all male farm holders, one in three was unmarried at the age of 35 and one in six was unmarried after the age of 45. From 1962 to 1975 these rates fell slightly for farmers less than 35 years old. They rose strongly after 1982 (INSEE, 1993). 35% of young farmers (under 35) were single in 1988, compared with only 26% in 1979. The highest rate of singleness was observed among family members working on the farm – farmers’ children – and the phenomenon was to grow even further (Agreste, 1991). There is nothing specifically French about this phenomenon: in 1987, an abnormally high rate of singleness among farmers was recorded in every country in the European Union, with the exception of Greece (Jegouzo, 1991). The same is true for the United States (Landale, 1989). This high level of bachelorhood among farmers has existed since the end of the Second World War, although it has stabilized, or even moved slightly closer to the national rate of singleness, over the last thirty years (Jegouzo, 1991). However, this does not mean that the proportion of unmarried farmers is falling. Rather, it is the result of changes in the national rate, as more and more city dwellers choose to live as couples without getting married. This trend is much less pronounced in rural areas (Audirac, 1986).

This high rate of bachelorhood among farmers is partly responsible for the decline of the number of the farms and for the lack of investments in rural areas (Facchini & Magni Berton, 2010). This article aims to provide an original explanation for this fact and, then, some recommendations for improving this situation.

Classic literature offers some explanation based on cultural biases in rural areas. In a first explanation, singleness is explained by the extent to which it is considered socially acceptable. When a social group acquires modern values and rejects the idea of the “couple” as the only acceptable norm, the number of single people increases (Kinbielher, 1991; Kaufmann, 1999).

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