The Unexpected Rapid Normalization of the Sex Ratios at Birth in China

Tomas Sobotka, Vienna Institute of Demography
Cuiling Zhang , China Population and Development Research Center

At the turn of the century China had become a country with the most distorted sex ratio at birth (SRB) globally, with a pronounced deficit of girls reported every year. The phenomenon of “missing girls” – or “gendercide” (Economist, March 4, 2010) raised alarm among experts, policymakers and general public. Initial responses in the form of laws and regulations prohibiting sex-selective abortion and the campaigns to promote the value of girls seemed to have very little effect. However, our exploration of recent trends reveals a sharp and lasting fall in the SRBs in China during the past 15 years. This trend, if sustained, marks an end of an era of unprecedented demographic gender discrimination that will have negative consequences on the lives, partnerships and marriage prospects of men and women born in the past three decades. We document and discuss the welcome “normalization” of the SRBs in China using previously untapped birth registration data.

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 Presented in Session 12. Gender Inequality and Fertility