China’s skewed sex ratios by birth order

Although my independent study on the strategic fertility and child investment decisions in China under the “one-child” policy has come to an end, my interest in the topic has not. This afternoon I was playing with the China Geo-Explorer this afternoon, and generated the following graphs about sex ratios of births in 2000.

First, let’s look at the aggregate statistics. This picture shows the sex ratios by province in 2000. The sex ratios of newly born are the highest in Henan, Anhui, Jiangxi, Guangdong, and Hainan, while autonomous regions represented by minorities enjoy much more balanced gender composition of births.

2000-birth-sex-ratioThese aggregate numbers can be misleading as it does not address the different concerns (and gender preference) parents have for births at different parity. For example, in places where second births are not strictly prohibited, parents might have little incentive to select the gender of their first child. To address this, I plot the sex ratios of first, second, and third births separately below.


2000-third-birth-sex-ratioSeveral provinces in central China has many more boys born than girls at each parity. It is obvious that sex ratios rise with birth order, probably reflecting the fact that some parents keep having children unless they have a boy. But we need to be aware that sex ratios of higher parity capture only the parents who have the resources to have more children than stipulated by the OCP. Also, it’s interesting to see Beijing’s sex ratio become much higher for first births.

Professor Averham Ebenstein has kindly shared his data and programs on Chinese fertility trends (from three censuses) and OCP fines with me. Currently I also have Chinese Household Income Project (CHIP) and Chinese Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS) at hand. It will take me some time to figure out how to best utilize these data for my purpose.

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