"Excess men" seen as new population crisis for China
A bias in favor of male offspring has left China with 32 million more males younger than 20 than females, creating "an imminent generation...
The New York Times
BEIJING — A bias in favor of male offspring has left China with 32 million more males younger than 20 than females, creating "an imminent generation of excess men," a study released Friday said.
For the next 20 years, China will have increasingly more men than women of reproductive age, according to the paper, published online by BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal. "Nothing can be done now to prevent this," the researchers said.
Chinese government planners have long known that couples' urge to have sons was skewing the gender balance of the population. But the study, by two Chinese university professors and a London researcher, provides some of the first hard data on the extent of the disparity and the factors contributing to it.
The gender imbalance could trigger a slew of social problems, including a possible spike in crime by young men unable to find female partners, said an author of the report.
"If you've got highly sexed young men, there is a concern that they will all get together and, with high levels of testosterone, there may be a real risk that they will go out and commit crimes," said Therese Hesketh, a lecturer at the Centre for International Health and Development at University College London. She did not specify what kinds of crimes.
In 2005, the researchers found, births of males in China exceeded births of females by more than 1.1 million. There were 120 boys born for every 100 girls.
This disparity seems to surpass that of any other country, they said, perhaps unsurprising in light of China's one-child policy.
They attributed the imbalance almost entirely to couples' decisions to abort female fetuses.
The trend toward more male than female children intensified steadily after 1986, they said, as ultrasound tests and abortion became more available. "Sex-selective abortion accounts for almost all the excess males," the paper said.
The researchers, who analyzed data from a 2005 census, said the disparity was widest among children ages 1 to 4, a sign that the greatest imbalances among the adult population lie ahead. They also found more distortion in provinces that allow rural couples a second child if the first is a girl, or in cases of hardship.
Those couples were determined to ensure they had at least one son, the researchers noted. Among children born second, there were 143 boys for 100 girls, the data showed.
The researchers said enforcing the ban against sex-selective abortions could normalize the sex ratio in the future.
The study was conducted by Wei Xingzhu, a Zhejiang Normal University professor; Li Lu, a Zhejiang University professor; and Hesketh.
Nancy Riley, a professor of sociology at Bowdoin College in Maine who was not involved with the study, said its methodology looked fine, but she questioned whether selective abortion counted for almost all the excess males.
"From other research, it is clear that sex-selective abortion does indeed contribute to these high sex ratios, but so do other things (such as) nonreporting of girl births, abandonment, even infanticide," Riley said.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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