Economics Society

WaPo: China and India have 70 million more men than women. The consequences are far-reaching.

Don’t miss an outstanding set of articles by  and in WaPo about the consequences of longstanding bias against female babies in China and India. This is not a new issue, of course, and the warnings about the eventual price that would be paid for centuries-old prejudices have been coming for a long time. Now that the day of reckoning has come, however, it’s startling to read of an nation-sized population of men with no hope of marriage or even basic companionship. 

Some highlights:

Nothing like this has happened in human history. A combination of cultural preferences, government decree and modern medical technology in the world’s two largest countries has created a gender imbalance on a continental scale. Men outnumber women by 70 million in China and India.

The consequences of having too many men, now coming of age, are far-reaching: Beyond an epidemic of loneliness, the imbalance distorts labor markets, drives up savings rates in China and drives down consumption, artificially inflates certain property values, and parallels increases in violent crime, trafficking or prostitution in a growing number of locations.

Those consequences are not confined to China and India, but reach deep into their Asian neighbors and distort the economies of Europe and the Americas, as well. Barely recognized, the ramifications of too many men are only starting to come into sight.

“In the future, there will be millions of men who can’t marry, and that could pose a very big risk to society,” warns Li Shuzhuo, a leading demographer at Xi’an Jiaotong University.

The growing number of eligible men who cannot find brides has
had a profound impact on the age-old rhythms of family life.
Adult sons live with their mothers — in some cases, their
grandmothers. Indian and Chinese women who showed a marked
preference for sons are growing old. They are still burdened with
cooking and cleaning for their adult sons, and the stress affects
their health. “I’ve cried so much I can’t see any more,” says one.

It takes a house, savings and a good job to win a bride. Many Chinese
men are working harder, taking more dangerous or unpleasant
jobs, to get ahead. Parents are also trying to give their sons a leg
up financially. “It’s kind of an arms race in the dating and marriage
market,” said Shang-Jin Wei, a Columbia University economist.

Tens of thousands of foreign women are flocking to China for marriage,
pushed by poverty at home and sucked in by China’s shortage of
women. Chinese men surf websites that offer foreign brides, and may
wind up paying upwards of $8,000 for marriage tours to find a wife.
For the brides, it’s a huge gamble: They are lured with promises of
work, and some are effectively trapped and trafficked into marriage.
In their new families, daughters-in-law often occupy the lowest status.

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