With too many boys and too few girls, China’s gender problem is creating social disruption and a market for foreign mail-order brides. The country needs millions of brides for young men looking to start families, reports Adam Minter at Bloomberg.
China’s long-standing one-child policy, combined with a cultural preference for boys, has led parents to manipulate technology and use sex-selective abortions to skew births. In 2013, Minter notes, the Chinese government reported that 117.6 boys were born for every 100 girls. The normal ratio is 103 to 106 boys per 100 girls.
“In China, daughters are expected to marry up -- and in a country where men far outnumber women, the opportunities to do so are excellent, especially in the cities to which so many of China’s rural women move,” Minter writes. “The result is that bride prices -- essentially dowries paid to the families of daughters -- are rising, especially in the countryside. One 2011 study on bride prices found that they’d increased 70-fold between the 1960s and 1990s in just one representative, rural hamlet.”
The biggest losers in the marriage battles are the poor and uneducated young men in the countryside, as young women move to the city. This creates a market for foreign-born brides, resulting in human trafficking, Minter reports.
Earlier this year, a major scandal emerged, as more than 100 Vietnamese brides in a rural Chinese community disappeared, in what appears to have been a scam to extract bride prices from desperate bachelors.
“A surplus of 40-50 million bachelors throughout the mid- to late 21st century will have a significant effect on China’s stability and development as a nation,” write Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer in a recent Washington Post piece.
The socially disruptive implications of the gender imbalance have many observers concerned.
“Male criminal behavior drops significantly upon marriage, and the presence of significant numbers of unmarriageable men is potentially destabilizing to societies,” Hudson and den Boer argue. “In the case of China, the fact that a sizeable percentage of young adult males will not be making that transition will have negative social repercussions, including increased crime, violent crime, crimes against women, vice, substance abuse and the formation of gangs that are involved in all of these antisocial behaviors.”
Hudson, a professor at Texas A&M, and den Boer, a lecturer at the University of Kent in the UK, have been watching this problem for the past decade, having coauthored in 2005 “Bare Branches,” which examines the security risks of China’s gender imbalance.