Thursday, January 4, 2007

Sex ratio in Taiwan and Greater Asia

Taiwanese are pretty critical of the practices of their cross-straight cousins in China. Amazingly though, they really resemble in the sex ratio area.

This is probably going to be a little controversial but I'll wade into it anyway. It is generally accepted that a 'normal' ratio of boys born to girls born is 105:100. Scientists have used this as the basis for looking at societies around the world.

We have all heard stories about how the one-child policy has had the effect of making boys the choice of many couple in China. This may be for labor reasons but more likely due to the fact that Chinese like to insure a male heir to continue the family name.

This is where it gets interesting. Even though Taiwan (and other close Asian nations) does not have such a draconian birth policy, what isn't enforced by government controls is being enforced by economics, culture and modern technology.

"The sex ratio at birth (between male and female births) in mainland China reached 117:100 in the year 2000, substantially higher than the natural baseline, which ranges between 103:100 and 107:100. It had risen from 108:100 in 1981 -- at the boundary of the natural baseline -- to 111:100 in 1990. The coincidence of the increase of sex ratio disparity on birth and the deployment of one child policy are viewed by many as the side effect of one child policy. However, other Asian regions also have higher than average ratios, including Taiwan (110:100), and South Korea (108:100), which do not have a strict family planning policy."

As societies develop, they tend to have less children per family. But also,

"Both rural and urban populations have economic and traditional incentives, including widespread remnants of Confucianism, to prefer sons over daughters. Sons are preferred as they provide the primary financial support for the parents in their retirement, and a son's parents typically are better cared for than his wife's."


"Even in other Asian countries/provinces without population control programs, [....] the strong social preference for sons combined with the access to modern technologies such as ultrasound have resulted in increased sex ratios at birth."

It suggests that the use of new technology such as ultrasound to predict the sex of unborn children has resulted in sex-selective abortion. So the dirty secret is out...

China's one child policy and other countries in the area:

A sex ratio comparison chart by country and more theories:
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