We offer evidence of gender selection within the United States. Analysis of comprehensive birth data shows unusually high boy-birth percentages after 1980 among later children (most notably third and fourth children) born to Chinese and Asian Indian mothers. Based upon linked data from California, Asian Indian mothers are found to be significantly more likely to have a terminated pregnancy and to give birth to a boy when they have previously only given birth to girls. The observed boy-birth percentages are consistent with over 2,000 "missing" Chinese and Indian girls in the United States between 1991 and 2004. (JEL J11, J16)

March 2008

bstract: We document male-biased sex ratios among U.S.-born children of Chinese, Korean, and Asian Indian parents in the 2000 U.S. Census. This male bias is particularly evident for third children: If there was no previous son, sons outnumbered daughters by 50%. By contrast, the sex ratios of eldest and younger children with an older brother were both within the range of the biologically normal, as were White offspring sex ratios (irrespective of the elder siblings' sex). We interpret the found deviation in favor of sons to be evidence of sex selection, most likely at the prenatal stage.


One key point from that article was that the new transforms the old. What's old is sex selection. What's new is the combination of ease, safety, and privacy with which you can now do it.


This is a fundamental dynamic between technology and culture: Technology can coax cultures one way or the other by making it easier to do what you want to do, with less difficulty and without other people knowing about it Technology can facilitate regression as easily as it facilitates progress. But if you think of yourself as a pro-life conservative, the data should humble you, too. In the populations in which it has increased, sex selection isn't a newfangled perversion. It's a custom, and a patriarchal one at that. If the sex-selection story teaches us all to be a bit more skeptical of both tradition and technology, that'll be real progress.

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