December 23, 2007
South Korean Boy Baby Preference Declines

Girls provide better care for their parents in old age. Girls also are less likely to run afoul of the law. Girls are less extreme. Yet in many societies (e.g. China and India) ultrasound, selective abortion, and other reproductive technologies are getting used to tilt live births toward boys. However, in South Korea the preference for boys seems to be ending.

In South Korea, once one of Asia’s most rigidly patriarchal societies, a centuries-old preference for baby boys is fast receding. And that has led to what seems to be a decrease in the number of abortions performed after ultrasounds that reveal the sex of a fetus.

According to a study released by the World Bank in October, South Korea is the first of several Asian countries with large sex imbalances at birth to reverse the trend, moving toward greater parity between the sexes. Last year, the ratio was 107.4 boys born for every 100 girls, still above what is considered normal, but down from a peak of 116.5 boys born for every 100 girls in 1990.

Rising status and more career opportunities for women helped reduce the desire for boys.

In some Asian countries the preference for boys is still quite strong.

In China in 2005, the ratio was 120 boys born for every 100 girls, according to the United Nations Population Fund. Vietnam reported a ratio of 110 boys to 100 girls last year. And although India recorded about 108 boys for every 100 girls in 2001, when the last census was taken, experts say the gap is sure to have widened by now.

In some Indian provinces the male to female ratio is much higher.

NEW DELHI: The sex ratio has further declined in the five northern States with Punjab showing the worst results ­ there were only 527 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2005 as against 754 girls as per the 2001 Census.

I see one big benefit: slower population growth. Girls can make babies. Fewer girls means fewer babies. So Punjab 15 to 20 years from now will show less population growth than other parts of India where selective abortion is less practiced. One of the biggest problems in the world is too many people. If we had fewer people habitat destruction would be far less, extinctions would be less, fossil fuels depletion would be less, and many other problems would be smaller.

South Korea, with a fertility rate of just 1.15, doesn't really need a sex ratio imbalance to control population. Whereas China and especially India would benefit from smaller populations. Even more so, large parts of Africa and Afghanistan with disastrously high fertility rates (and see this human fertility rate map) would benefit from sex ratio imbalances or anything else that would lower their fertilities. These places are stuck in a Malthusian Trap where any increase in capacity to grow food gets used up by population growth. The people suffer. The wildlife shrinks as their habitats get shifted into human habitats. This is horrible.

I see another benefit from the sex ratio imbalance: higher male competition for females might boost average IQ because dumber guys will probably lose the competition at higher rates than smarter guys. It is a politicallly incorrect truth (and therefore ignored or denounced) that the dummies are breeding faster than the smarties (demonstrated by smart South Korea's pathetic fertility rate). Any selective pressure for higher IQ is a welcome trend.

But there are potential downsides to the boy surplus. The high ratio of boys to girls can be expected to increase violence and crime. Also, large numbers of sexually frustrated young single men could rise up and rebel against their governments.

Though again on the bright side, the Chinese sex ratio imbalance might bring down the North Korean regime due to Chinese wife purchasing of North Korean girls.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 December 23 09:58 PM  Trends Demographic

Nuke'Em said at December 24, 2007 7:43 AM:

>> ...large numbers of sexually frustrated young single men could rise up and rebel against their governments.

Usually the governments see this problem coming and find a use for these surplus young men. Historically, this has meant military adventurism or the encouragement of other dangerous behaviors to let some steam out of the pressure cooker.

donald wilkins said at December 26, 2007 5:18 AM:

Would the excess males seek females elsewhere, say in Europe or America?

I see quite a few couples in my area have adopted girls from Eastern Asia. The young ladies will be raised on Western norms: equality of sexes and liberal (in the good sense) ideals.

When the young men look for their brides overseas, they may find some of the patriarchical concepts unacceptable to the women of the West. Will they adapt or die? Will women exercise the competition to demand marriages more in line with their needs and desires?

Dragon Horse said at December 31, 2007 12:45 PM:

I don't know if this a gender imbalance tilted toward males necessarily will lead to societal instability in a Confucianist based nation. I recently read in "China's Cultural Heritage: The Qing Dynasty: 1644-1912", by Richard Smith that "About 10% of Chinese men probably never married, which helps explain why major marriages brought such social prestige and required such grand public displays."

10% is a huge number. This gives some credence to Randall's musing about selective pressures on IQ due to sex imbalance. If that was today, you would have 65 million men. What keeps the crime rate down in East Asia is not "marriage" it is filial piety, which is still quite strong in East Asia, even in China, after 60 years of communism. 60 years does not erase 1800 years of Confucianist thought. "Face" is still important in Asia. I have seen generally mild mannered Japanese men blow up into a rage and threaten murder (literally, not I'm not joking) over a public loss of face and more than a few Japanese kill themselves over it. Japan is the most Westernized country in the region (if you discount the Philippines). These traditional ideas are stronger in S.Korea and Taiwan than in Japan in 2007.

Although I expect crime to go up slightly I do not think it will bring revolution or anything in China. If you want to cause revolution in China, have Taiwan declare independence and China fail to take it. The resulting loss of face to the CCP over the Taiwan issue (especially if America and Japan are involved) for a 3rd time might result in civil war (no I'm not exaggerating, China is not as stable as people think, why do you think the CCP is so paranoid about control?

Dragon Horse said at December 31, 2007 1:10 PM:

I should explain that loss of face in Asia does not just apply to an individual but it can bring shame on their family, close friends, and even co-workers. Today in Japan, if your brother or sister is a felon you will likely never be a police officer or be able to work for the government because they do take seriously the idea of "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree".

blue said at January 3, 2008 3:27 PM:

I think it's a pity about Punjab because it's definitely one of India's better states. Punjabis are a successful ethnic group.

In India, the unsuccessful ethnic groups don't impose any sort of limits on themselves (even bad ones like sex selection) and just breed away.

FilteredThought said at January 14, 2013 10:22 AM:

@blue, not true at all. Though Punjabis are hard workers, but they are not intelligent as rest of Indians are. They're like dumb-blondes of India. Many jokes are made of them. They're also not an ethnic group of their own. People in the northern hemisphere are slightly mixed with the people of erstwhile Persia, hence they're a bit light-skinned. People in the southern hemisphere are not mixed and hence they are dark (not true in all cases as some are incredibly fair due to reasons uknown). In the North, Gujaratis are the most successful than others. In the South, almost all are successful with exceptions to a few. So when it comes to intelligence (IQ), Punjabis are at the bottom rung, even though they're good hard-working people. People in the West are acquainted with Punjabis more because of the mass immigration during the riots. Hence if you come across an Indian, he/she would more likely be a Punjabi than any other Indian ethnic.

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