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02/12/2007

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Paul H. Rubin

Professors Becker and Posner see little social cost to a society with substantially more males than females. Although their analysis of the private costs to individuals is correct, I think they are missing some potentially serious external costs. In particular, in such societies there will ultimately be large numbers of unmarried males. These males are likely to be a source of political unrest. It may be that such gender imbalances are incompatible with a peaceful democracy. I make this point in my book, Darwinian Politics: the Evolutionary Origin of Freedom (Rutgers Press, 2002) and it is made more forcefully in Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population by Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. DenBoer (MIT Press, 2005).

Paul H. Rubin

Professors Becker and Posner see little social cost to a society with substantially more males than females. Although their analysis of the private costs to individuals is correct, I think they are missing some potentially serious external costs. In particular, in such societies there will ultimately be large numbers of unmarried males. These males are likely to be a source of political unrest. It may be that such gender imbalances are incompatible with a peaceful democracy. I make this point in my book, Darwinian Politics: the Evolutionary Origin of Freedom (Rutgers Press, 2002) and it is made more forcefully in Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population by Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. DenBoer (MIT Press, 2005).

Paul H. Rubin
Emory University

unemployed observer

i quite agree the demand and supply analysis on boys and girls. I beleive the policy makers in China also realize Becker's point. But I think what the policy maker's concern is the social effect of skewed gender distribution. If there are way more boys than girls, under our 1 husband 1 wife system, many boys will eventually unmarried. As Becker mentioned, since the price of girl rise, most likely the boys in the lower income distribution will remain single. Also since they are lower income/education, their cost of commiting crime is lower. This may raise the number of crime (rape for example). I beleive this is the concern of Chinese policy makers. Of course, in the long run, parents will have incentives to have more girls, but one of the jobs the current policy makers is to solve the current social problem.

unemployed observer

I think the paper by Emily Oster on hepatitis B virus is not correct in China. I think she studied another place (Alaska?). In China, We observe the sex ratio has been increasing (off the trend)since the 1 child policy. But we do not observe there is any off trend changes in hepatitis B in Chin during the same period.

Anonymous

These males are likely to be a source of political unrest. It may be that such gender imbalances are incompatible with a peaceful democracy. I make this point in my book, Darwinian Politics: the Evolutionary Origin of Freedom (Rutgers Press, 2002) and it is made more forcefully in Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population by Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. DenBoer (MIT Press, 2005).These males are likely to be a source of political unrest. It may be that such gender imbalances are incompatible with a peaceful democracy. I make this point in my book, Darwinian Politics: the Evolutionary Origin of Freedom (Rutgers Press, 2002) and it is made more forcefully in Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population by Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. DenBoer (MIT Press, 2005).
This was the first point I wanted to raise, as it is a serious potential consequence not anticipated by the fairly typical economic analysis above. This is particularly important because of China's aggressive stance toward Taiwan, a country that is effectively protected by the U.S.

Chinese man will probably increasingly go to neighboring countries in search of brides. This process is likely to lead to abuse of low-status women and girls in countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and others, possibly even including North Korea.

In addition, in a male-dominated society, girls may end up being hoarded by their families as a precious resource. In the absence of being able to express dissatisfaction through voting, a free press, or an independent judiciary, the sex imbalance may actually further harm young women. I'm not sure how independent women are in Chinese society, so I can't speak to how big a problem this will be.

hanmeng

Some blame a high rate of kidnapping of females in China on the imbalance.

Richard Mason

Another social consequence of the sex ratio is that, assuming a given average number of births per mother, the effective population replacement rate is proportional to the percentage of women.

Ceteris paribus, a bias in favor of male babies will restrain the growth of the population, or hasten the decline of the population, in the following generation. This will have the effects for good or ill which we associate with different demographic pyramids.

Joel Pinheiro

"One might expect parents who abort fetuses of sexes they do not want to treat their children better than they would otherwise since they now are satisfied with the sexes of their children."

If a couple is willing to kill some of its babies, are we to expect they will be kind with the ones left?

Haris

"If a couple is willing to kill some of its babies, are we to expect they will be kind with the ones left?"

Maybe, maybe not. But no one said they'd be kind. Just kinder than they would have been to the ones they killed or aborted. And, since they let some of them live, they've already proven kinder to them.

Paco

I would second Prof. Rubin's analysis of the external costs of having a large number of unmarried males, though Prof. Becker is correct to note the contradiction between the ACOG's support of abortion rights and its condemnation of sex-selected abortions.

Prof. F.E. Guerra-Pujol

Bill

…then the value of boys as husbands and boyfriends tends to fall… -from the Article

The strategy of creating bored unmarried males to defend society and expand borders is as old as time. Sex selection at birth is not nearly as effective at creating militants as polygamy coupled with strict rules against pre-marital sex though.

Sura (4:3) - "Marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess.”

girl

While there is no way to know if a male surplus might possibly raise the rate of crime or rape, the neglect and abandonment of female infants to orphanages is clear and demonstrable. If planning for “correction” of undesireable social trends is ever an intelligent course of action, doing so to prevent an eventuality that has not yet occurred seems foolish to the extreme. The law of unintended consequences tells us that any action taken by the state could backfire and produce effects even more undesirable to those already experienced. The dangers of state intervention (in this case, trying to prevent abortions by making disclosure of the sex of the fetus illegal) are magnified in cases where there is almost no information to support a possible outcome.

Additionally, though we do not know if a couple who opts out of aborting an unwanted girl would be "kind" to a child they decide to bring to term, we do know that they themselves made an explicit decision to keep the child based on relevant information. That in itself would signal far better odds for the child.

girl

While there is no way to know if a male surplus might possibly raise the rate of crime or rape, the neglect and abandonment of female infants to orphanages is clear and demonstrable. If planning for "correction" of undesireable social trends is ever an intelligent course of action, doing so to prevent an eventuality that has not yet occurred seems foolish to the extreme. The law of unintended consequences tells us that any action taken by the state could backfire and produce effects even more undesirable to those already experienced. The dangers of state intervention (in this case, trying to prevent abortions by making disclosure of the sex of the fetus illegal) are magnified in cases where there is almost no information to support a possible outcome.

Merusavarni

Are we missing a lot of "other cultural factors" in this discussion ?

In a country like India, Prof. Becker's analysis will have to include the "religious / cultural as well as social & economic factors" while in China these may not play that big a role.

For instance, the "unadmitted" preference for boys in India is as much driven by a religious belief that having a son will help the parents avoid the hell that awaits them after their death (the hell in case they did not have a son is called Punnaama Naraka), as it is by their supposed "future cost & value factors". And again, these two factors play out in different combinations when coupled with the caste, creed, region, religious influences of the Indian society.

And this in many ways is the problem of westerners analysing eastern societies - there is lot of simplification to allow the analysis to progress and a lot of ignoring the cultural factors.

I doubt if social choice in Indian society is that simple even when the choices exercised by the Indian people appear to be happening along the same line as is the case in other societies -eastern and western included.

futurefl

男:生于忧患 女: 死于安乐

Kaveh Majlesi

If this argument is true, then how we can explain female infanticide that has happened extensively for a very long time in Arab countries before the emergence of Islam? If when women become scarce, their value goes up, at least we should not see such a behavior in a long period of time. Unless cultural issues have much more power than other factors in shaping parents preferences and there is no market-clearing point, which is very odd.

Corey

"Prof. Becker is correct to note the contradiction between the ACOG's support of abortion rights and its condemnation of sex-selected abortions."

There is not necessarily a contradiction there. Abortion, especially late term, is a sufficiently unpleasant procedure for all involved that it is perfectly understandable to limit one's support for choice to rational choices.

You are assuming that absolutism is required by the contentious abortion debate. But just as it is possible to be pro-life until the point where another life (the mother's) is threatened, it is possible to be pro-choice until the choice is made for socially undesirable reasons.

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DATE: 02/15/2007 10:41:04 AM

Some Professors Are Sexist

In particular, in such societies there will ultimately be large numbers of unmarried males. These males are likely to be a source of political unrest.

This is outright sexism. A large number of unmarried females, Why, that's a sign of political advancement and proof of freedom! A large number of unmarried males, Why, that's a sign of political unrest! What a dangerous development we must retard!

Nevermind that "a large number of unmarried females" usually is comprised of single women who have opted not to have children, who have retreated from making emotional ties, who generally reject taking care of the generation that preceded them, and who have withdrawn from society except in its capitalist and consumerist form, yet still expect the state to provide them with social insurance and retirement benefits. That doesn't count as "political unrest"? A cadre of affluent churls trying to raise everyone else's taxes? The impending Social Security crush isn't a source of "political unrest"? The abortion debate hasn't been a source of "political unrest"? The invasiveness of family courts into private lives in the wake of no-fault divorce hasn't been a source of "political unrest"?

Apparently, "political unrest" only exists if young men are trying to obtain political power.

Taboo Truth

Unmarried females means that girls are resisting the pressure to get married and are therefore exercising their freedom of choice and are able to support themselves.

Looking purely at crime statistics, unmarried males are much more likely to commit crimes than married males.

Perhaps, this large surplus of males can feed into China's military ambitions. If only African women were attracted to Asian men and vice versa, then Chinese men would be able to find their brides in war torn, male depleted Africa.

I'm interested though, as to whether the male preference is due to the parent's self interest-care in old age, or whether it is due to intrinsic cultural and religious preferences for boys. Females in China probably have similar employment prospects as men these days, as in the US, there are more females than males in college.
As female value rises, things will change. All I know is that China and India cannot claim to be fully advanced nations unless they address this human rights travesty in the form of hundreds of thousands of dead babies. Good luck to the love struck males.

http://pitruth.blogspot.com

BabyBarista

How far do people think any such selection should go, ie beyond choosing the sex?

AntiColonialist

Is it not racist, as well as sexist, to assume that these "idle young men" will have more agression than our (Western) young men and will in turn lead their societies down more violent paths? Lets be honest about these societies over which we in the West fret so much - because they are peopled by a non-white "other", we assume that they will be agressive and violent, and that without marriage they will be even more so? I beg you for the hard evidence on this.

Looking at the American war in Iraq in which hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed by an American version of "idle young men" complicates our picture, doesn't it? It is quite hypocritical for Western scholars and feminists to blame young men in developing countries for perpetrating violence while Western societies continue to struggle to properly educate and make available sufficient, fullfilling opportunities to their own young people.

Let's also be honest about what we are trying to do: unjustly mould the social and cultural preferences of other societies to be more like our own, far-from-perfect "civilization." In other words, we must stop forcing our preferred "equality" on other societies where our models of society aren't appropriate or needed or even asked for. And in the meantime, we should start taking care of our own young men, whether white, black, citizen or immigrant.

Haris

I don't think saying that "unmarried males are a source of political unrest" is either sexist or racist. A large portion of unmarried women would create similar political problems, but only in places where women have equal rights as men. A big gender disparity in Europe, for example, would definitely have a political effect. I happen to think it would be much more peaceful though, since it's empirically clear that men commit most crimes, especially violent crimes. In either case, a large surplus of unmarried people of either gender would probably lead to political repercussions, but I think with men the potential for violence is larger.
Similarly, I think you're reading way too much into the statement if you think it is racist. The statement was merely that large numbers of unmarried males are a source of political unrest. It made no mention of whether those males in China or India would be more or less aggressive than those in Europe or America. I think the effects of a large gender disparity would be similar in most places, though of course culture would play a role as to the manner and intensity of such effects. The fact that the reference in the text was to two particular countries is merely coincidental, since it's those two nations with an imbalance.

wufactor

Much of the argument here comes down to this:

"it is not apparent why that should call for policies that prevent sex-selected techniques, unless the interests of men were motivating these policies. To use an analogy, a shift of demand in an economy toward services and away from manufacturing because of a shift in "preferences" toward services- as has occurred in the United States and other rich countries- benefits women relative to men since women are more likely to work in services than are men. Yet no one would claim that society should prevent such preferences because they help (indirectly) one sex over another."

The question is not whether it benefits one sex indirectly over another, but whether the nature of that benefit is creating or ameliorating otherwise unfair circumstances. Women, for example, face disadvantages in the workplace, such as life cycle time taken off to care for small children and other family responsibilities that traditionally fall more heavily on them. This is borne out in the lower average incomes of women on their relative absence in managerial positions. Thus the fact that the shift toward the service sector, besides being inevitable and desirable in purely economic terms, benefits women relative to men does not in itself generate unfairness; for it only partially ameliorates some of the other even greater disadvantages they continue to face relative to men in other areas.

In sexual relations however, barring practices such as legalized rape or forced marriage, women are equal to men in their ability to freely choose, and their relative position as a gender is determined only by their relative numbers. Introducing a numerical imbalance in that environment creates an inequality, and an unfairness, where none existed beforehand.

Furthermore, the sexist attitudes underlying Chinese society's aversion to girls is not some abstract statistical imbalance but an unfair and self-destructive traditional attitude. They should be addressed now, not in 30 years when economic preferences have shifted in the long run. This is a case where the old adage of "in the long run, we are all dead," applies well.

Interestingly, the United States has the opposite rarely spoken of problem, where the adoption of girls from abroad, but more importantly the vast incarceration of large numbers of men in prison relative to the population, disadvantages American women in the mating market. It seems for the solution to be for China to encourage the births of more girls and more feminist attitudes today, while the U.S. should find ways to help its men rehabilitate into society.

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