Sex selection and the resulting ratio bias

Venkataraman Bhaskar, Tue, 06/24/2008



Gender bias, in the form of a parental preference for having boys rather than girls, is a phenomenon exhibited in many parts of the world and is reflected in male-biased gender ratios. Modern medicine has aggravated the problem – foetal sex determination, while illegal for selective abortion in China and India, is a flourishing practice and medical developments have been associated with an increase in the sex ratio at birth in South/East Asia from its usual norm of 105-106 boys per 100 girls to 116.9 according to the 2000 Chinese census, and 107.8 in the 2001 Indian census, with much stronger biases recorded in certain regions.

The author of CEPR DP6876 considers a society where parents prefer boys, but also value grandchildren. He finds that parental choice results in a socially inefficient situation – it is estimated, for example, that 40-50 million Chinese men could be without brides. As the marriage market is subject to frictions, the existence of bride prices will not result in an efficient outcome.

He extends his model to consider the effect of China’s one-child policy on the country’s sex ratio and finds that the ratio would be more unbalanced in a two-child society than a one-child society as when parents already have one daughter, the incentive for the second to be a boy is even higher because the promise of a grandchild is there already. The author therefore claims that it is far from clear that China’s one-child policy has been responsible for the increase in the country’s sex ratio bias.

Summarised by CEPR staff

DP6876 Parental Sex Selection and Gender Balance

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Topics:  Development

Tags:  congestion externality, family economics, gender bias, marriage market, sex ratio, sex selection


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