August 4, 2008


There Are More Boys than Girls in China and India: Preference for sons could spell trouble for China and India (Jeremy Hsu, 8/04/08, Scientific American)

There are 119 boys born for every 100 girls in China today, compared with 108.5 boys per 100 girls during the 1980s. Recent national data is less comprehensive for India, but census records show 115 boys born for every 100 girls in 2003. That represents a major leap from 104 boys per 100 girls in 1981. By comparison, the U.S. is closer to average: 105 boys for every 100 girls this year. [...]

Modernization typically leads to a drop-off in the number of children per family, but the preference for sons does not fall as quickly, Ebenstein says. That was evident in modernizing Asian countries such as South Korea and Taiwan, which both saw skewing in the ratio of girl and boy births during the 1980s.

Those countries have recently seen a shift back toward a balanced sex ratio, which spells hope for China and India further down the road. For instance, South Korea had a birth sex ratio of just 107.4 boys for every 100 girls in 2006, compared with 116.5 boys for every 100 girls in 1990. The reverse trend draws power from the strengthening social and economic status of women, as well as the parental desire to have a nuclear family consisting of one boy and one girl.

Baby boy bias is not as widespread in countries outside Asia—at least not enough to prompt parents to attempt to control the sex of their newborns. Studies show the birth sex ratio of males to females fell in North America and Europe during the latter half of the 20th century, although it was not significantly skewed to begin with. South American countries do not have widespread prenatal sex selection because of Catholic beliefs, according to political scientist Valerie Hudson of Brigham Young University, and Africans cherish the earning capacity of daughters. Only some other Central and East Asian countries such as Vietnam now see birth sex ratios near that of China or India.

The growing number of "bare branches"—as the Chinese call young men without the opportunity to marry—was deemed "a hidden danger" that will "affect social stability," according to a 2007 statement by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council. Hudson has also suggested that social instability such as rising crime and even rebellion historically follow any large number of "bare branches," although other social scientists such as Ebenstein remain reluctant to extend such parallels to modern China or India.

Because they don't want to think about it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 4, 2008 1:02 PM
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