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China's excess males, sex selective abortion, and one child policy: analysis of data from 2005 national intercensus survey.

Zhu WX, Lu L, Hesketh T - BMJ (2009)

Bottom Line: One particular variant of the one child policy, which allows a second child if the first is a girl, leads to the highest sex ratios.In 2005 males under the age of 20 exceeded females by more than 32 million in China, and more than 1.1 million excess births of boys occurred.China will see very high and steadily worsening sex ratios in the reproductive age group over the next two decades.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: College of Law, Political Science and Public Administration, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua, Zhejiang 310347, China.

ABSTRACT

Objectives: To elucidate current trends and geographical patterns in the sex ratio at birth and in the population aged under 20 in China and to determine the roles played by sex selective abortion and the one child policy.

Design: Analysis of household based cross sectional population survey done in November 2005.

Setting: All of China's 2861 counties. Population 1% of the total population, selected to be broadly representative of the total.

Main outcome measure: Sex ratio defined as males per 100 females.

Results: 4 764 512 people under the age of 20 were included. Overall sex ratios were high across all age groups and residency types, but they were highest in the 1-4 years age group, peaking at 126 (95% confidence interval 125 to 126) in rural areas. Six provinces had sex ratios of over 130 in the 1-4 age group. The sex ratio at birth was close to normal for first order births but rose steeply for second order births, especially in rural areas, where it reached 146 (143 to 149). Nine provinces had ratios of over 160 for second order births. The highest sex ratios were seen in provinces that allow rural inhabitants a second child if the first is a girl. Sex selective abortion accounts for almost all the excess males. One particular variant of the one child policy, which allows a second child if the first is a girl, leads to the highest sex ratios.

Conclusions: In 2005 males under the age of 20 exceeded females by more than 32 million in China, and more than 1.1 million excess births of boys occurred. China will see very high and steadily worsening sex ratios in the reproductive age group over the next two decades. Enforcing the existing ban on sex selective abortion could lead to normalisation of the ratios.

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Fig 2 Variation in implementation of the one child policy15
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fig2: Fig 2 Variation in implementation of the one child policy15

Mentions: The relation between the sex ratio and the one child policy is a complex one. This study covers births taking place after the policy was instigated, so the increase in sex ratio that we document across age cohorts born in the past 20 years cannot be blamed on the policy in itself. However, the policy is implemented differently across the country (fig 2), and our data do suggest that the sex ratio is related to the way in which the policy is implemented.15 Whereas in most cities only one child is allowed, three main variants of the policy exist in rural areas. Type 1 provinces are most restrictive—around 40% of couples are allowed a second child but generally only if the first is a girl. In type 2 provinces everyone is allowed a second child if the first is a girl or if parents with one child experience “hardship,” the definition of which is open to interpretation by local officials. Type 3 provinces are most permissive, allowing couples a second child and sometimes a third, irrespective of sex. Our data show that the type 2 variant, which allows couples a second child after a girl, results in the highest sex ratios for second order births and the overall highest sex ratios, as seen in Henan, Anhui, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong, and Hainan. These are largely more traditional, predominantly agricultural provinces, where bearing sons is still seen as necessary for long term security.21 29


China's excess males, sex selective abortion, and one child policy: analysis of data from 2005 national intercensus survey.

Zhu WX, Lu L, Hesketh T - BMJ (2009)

Fig 2 Variation in implementation of the one child policy15
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2667570&req=5

fig2: Fig 2 Variation in implementation of the one child policy15
Mentions: The relation between the sex ratio and the one child policy is a complex one. This study covers births taking place after the policy was instigated, so the increase in sex ratio that we document across age cohorts born in the past 20 years cannot be blamed on the policy in itself. However, the policy is implemented differently across the country (fig 2), and our data do suggest that the sex ratio is related to the way in which the policy is implemented.15 Whereas in most cities only one child is allowed, three main variants of the policy exist in rural areas. Type 1 provinces are most restrictive—around 40% of couples are allowed a second child but generally only if the first is a girl. In type 2 provinces everyone is allowed a second child if the first is a girl or if parents with one child experience “hardship,” the definition of which is open to interpretation by local officials. Type 3 provinces are most permissive, allowing couples a second child and sometimes a third, irrespective of sex. Our data show that the type 2 variant, which allows couples a second child after a girl, results in the highest sex ratios for second order births and the overall highest sex ratios, as seen in Henan, Anhui, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong, and Hainan. These are largely more traditional, predominantly agricultural provinces, where bearing sons is still seen as necessary for long term security.21 29

Bottom Line: One particular variant of the one child policy, which allows a second child if the first is a girl, leads to the highest sex ratios.In 2005 males under the age of 20 exceeded females by more than 32 million in China, and more than 1.1 million excess births of boys occurred.China will see very high and steadily worsening sex ratios in the reproductive age group over the next two decades.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: College of Law, Political Science and Public Administration, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua, Zhejiang 310347, China.

ABSTRACT

Objectives: To elucidate current trends and geographical patterns in the sex ratio at birth and in the population aged under 20 in China and to determine the roles played by sex selective abortion and the one child policy.

Design: Analysis of household based cross sectional population survey done in November 2005.

Setting: All of China's 2861 counties. Population 1% of the total population, selected to be broadly representative of the total.

Main outcome measure: Sex ratio defined as males per 100 females.

Results: 4 764 512 people under the age of 20 were included. Overall sex ratios were high across all age groups and residency types, but they were highest in the 1-4 years age group, peaking at 126 (95% confidence interval 125 to 126) in rural areas. Six provinces had sex ratios of over 130 in the 1-4 age group. The sex ratio at birth was close to normal for first order births but rose steeply for second order births, especially in rural areas, where it reached 146 (143 to 149). Nine provinces had ratios of over 160 for second order births. The highest sex ratios were seen in provinces that allow rural inhabitants a second child if the first is a girl. Sex selective abortion accounts for almost all the excess males. One particular variant of the one child policy, which allows a second child if the first is a girl, leads to the highest sex ratios.

Conclusions: In 2005 males under the age of 20 exceeded females by more than 32 million in China, and more than 1.1 million excess births of boys occurred. China will see very high and steadily worsening sex ratios in the reproductive age group over the next two decades. Enforcing the existing ban on sex selective abortion could lead to normalisation of the ratios.

Show MeSH