The Sex Ratio Transition in Asia


  • Christophe Z. Guilmoto

    1. Senior Research Fellow, CEPED (Centre français sur la population et le développement), Université Paris Descartes and INED.
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This article adopts a comparative perspective to review the recent increase in the sex ratio at birth (SRB) across Asia. It first describes and compares the most recent birth statistics in Asia in order to identify commonalities in the gradual rise of SRBs observed from Armenia to South Korea. This comparison provides the basis for identifying specific transition patterns in the changes in SRBs. Their recent rise is then interpreted in a social and historical framework borrowed from fertility decline and based on three preconditions: access to sex-selection technology, preference for male births, and pressure from low fertility. On a broader plane, the process of growing imbalances in the sex composition of the population gives rise to a tragedy of the commons. This article indicates the factors that appear most likely to trigger a turnaround in this transitional demographic situation and to facilitate a return to biologically normal sex ratios in the future.