Earth Needs Women

The Economist reports on the presumedly rising tide of abortion and infanticide for purposes of gender selection:

Gendercide—to borrow the title of a 1985 book by Mary Anne Warren—is often seen as an unintended consequence of China’s one-child policy, or as a product of poverty or ignorance. But that cannot be the whole story. The surplus of bachelors—called in China guanggun, or “bare branches”— seems to have accelerated between 1990 and 2005, in ways not obviously linked to the one-child policy, which was introduced in 1979. And, as is becoming clear, the war against baby girls is not confined to China.

Parts of India have sex ratios as skewed as anything in its northern neighbour. Other East Asian countries—South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan—have peculiarly high numbers of male births. So, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, have former communist countries in the Caucasus and the western Balkans. Even subsets of America’s population are following suit, though not the population as a whole.

The real cause, argues Nick Eberstadt, a demographer at the American Enterprise Institute, a think-tank in Washington, DC, is not any country’s particular policy but “the fateful collision between overweening son preference, the use of rapidly spreading prenatal sex-determination technology and declining fertility.” These are global trends. And the selective destruction of baby girls is global, too.

I can’t honestly tell whether this is in fact a trend or whether we just have more data now. I have some suspicions it might be the latter.

I’ve heard people express fears that the gender imbalance in favor of males in China will lead to a more aggressive, warlike China. I think it’s rather likely to be the opposite. In a Confucian society largely without non-familial social safety nets will parents be inclined to send their sons, their only children, off to war?

I can’t speculate on how this will play out in other countries but, as I’ve written before, I don’t think this will work out well for China. Young women are in demand as factory workers. A declining or, at least, more restricted supply of young women may result in their becoming too valuable as workers for them to be mothers. I see the potential for a positive feedback loop.

If you don’t understand the title of this post, see here.

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