Sex ratio at birth in China, with reference to other areas in East Asia: what we know

Asia Pac Popul J. 1995 Sep;10(3):17-42.


PIP: This paper adds to the literature presented at the Seoul Symposium on Sex Preference for Children in Asia by focusing on the nature, extent, reasons for, and solutions to the abnormal sex ratio at birth in China. Comparisons are made to Taiwan and the Republic of Korea, which also show evidence of the "missing girl" syndrome. Coale and Banister are cited as indicating the trend toward higher female mortality and a higher sex ratio at birth during the 1930s and 1940s in China, a decline during the 1960s and 1970s, and an increase during the 1980s. Park and Cho are cited for identifying a rise in the sex ratio at birth around 1985 in Korea, 1986 in China, and 1987 in Taiwan. Although these three locations have different social, economic, and political contexts, all share a traditional culture of son preference. Gu and Li are cited for their evidence that the distorted sex ratio at birth is a new trend that balances parental desire for sex preference and small families in countries experiencing rapid fertility decline. Within China differences reveal a lower sex ratio in city provinces. The range is from 117.4 in Guangxi and 116.7 in Zhejiang to 103.4 in Guizhou and 103.6 in Tibet. 21 of the 31 provinces have a sex ratio higher than 108.0. The sex ratio at birth in China follows an inverted U-shaped pattern in relationship to the fertility level and level of socioeconomic development. Park and Cho are cited for their evidence that the Korean sex ratio rose earlier in cities than in towns and rural areas and among traditional provinces. Analysis of the sex ratio by parity in China indicates that the ratio for parity 1 has been about normal since 1989. The ratio of parity 2 increased from normal after 1984. At higher parities the sex ratio has been high since the beginning of the 1980s. Sex ratios rise with rising parity and more recent time period. This same pattern is also evident in Taiwan and Korea. The imbalance in China in recent times is particularly evident among women having one daughter. Zeng and others are cited for their identification of sex-selective abortion. Sex-differentiated underreporting of births are viewed as responsible for the recent imbalance. The suggestion is made that rapid fertility decline, technology, and cultural setting are crucial in explaining the reasons. Consciousness-raising is viewed as the best strategy for changing abnormal sex ratios.

MeSH terms

  • Asia
  • Behavior
  • China
  • Demography
  • Developing Countries
  • Family Characteristics
  • Family Relations
  • Far East
  • Nuclear Family*
  • Population
  • Population Characteristics
  • Psychology
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sex Factors
  • Sex Ratio*
  • Sex*
  • Social Values