Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 103 (36), 13271-5

Abnormal Sex Ratios in Human Populations: Causes and Consequences

Affiliations

Abnormal Sex Ratios in Human Populations: Causes and Consequences

Therese Hesketh et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.

Abstract

In the absence of manipulation, both the sex ratio at birth and the population sex ratio are remarkably constant in human populations. Small alterations do occur naturally; for example, a small excess of male births has been reported to occur during and after war. The tradition of son preference, however, has distorted these natural sex ratios in large parts of Asia and North Africa. This son preference is manifest in sex-selective abortion and in discrimination in care practices for girls, both of which lead to higher female mortality. Differential gender mortality has been a documented problem for decades and led to reports in the early 1990s of 100 million "missing women" across the developing world. Since that time, improved health care and conditions for women have resulted in reductions in female mortality, but these advances have now been offset by a huge increase in the use of sex-selective abortion, which became available in the mid-1980s. Largely as a result of this practice, there are now an estimated 80 million missing females in India and China alone. The large cohorts of "surplus" males now reaching adulthood are predominantly of low socioeconomic class, and concerns have been expressed that their lack of marriageability, and consequent marginalization in society, may lead to antisocial behavior and violence, threatening societal stability and security. Measures to reduce sex selection must include strict enforcement of existing legislation, the ensuring of equal rights for women, and public awareness campaigns about the dangers of gender imbalance.

Conflict of interest statement

Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 79 PubMed Central articles

See all "Cited by" articles

LinkOut - more resources

Feedback