Economic hardship linked to increase in number of boys born to Chinese-Americans

Economic hardship linked to increase in number of boys born to Chinese-Americans

Economic hardship linked to increase in number of boys born to Chinese-Americans

The FINANCIAL -- A new study has found that Chinese-Americans in the US witnessed increases in the fraction of new-born boys during the Great Recession of 2008-2010.  

Alongside Indian and Korean ethnic groups, Chinese have historically tended to prefer boys to girls, with some studies suggesting that sex-selective abortion could be a factor. The study concluded that a severe economic shock could exacerbate this cultural norm amongst Chinese-Americans, reducing the birth-rate of new-born girls relative to boys, even in a highly developed country such as the US.

The study, co-authored by Professor Soohyung Lee of Sogang University and Dr Chiara Orsini, Visiting Fellow at the Department of Social Policy at the LSE, and published in Economics Letters journal, focused on the sex-ratio of births from families of Chinese, Indian, and Korean origin. These groups were compared to non-Hispanic Whites during the 2008-2010 Great Recession.

The authors found there was a one per cent increase of the fraction of new-born boys among Chinese Americans during the Great Recession, relative to non-Hispanic Whites. Other ethnic minorities studied did not show a significant change.

The Great Recession was a period of global economic decline and increased unemployment between 2008 and 2010. As a ‘black swan event’, the Great Recession was likely to have come as a surprise to many families, who were unlikely to have planned for the prospect of economic hardship. Other studies have found that the Great Recession, with its associated reductions in the value of wealth or income, decreased the US fertility rate overall.

Chinese, Indian and Korean families were selected for the study as the number of new-born boys per 100 girls persistently exceeds 105 in these ethnic groups, the number considered a normal sex ratio and not subject to human intervention.

Dr Chiara Orsini said: “Analysing the birth-data from the Great Recession helps us to understand whether economic factors affect gender composition at birth amongst ethnic minority groups who are more likely to sex select.

“The Great Recession was a severe and unexpected economic shock for many people, and we were interested in how families from these groups responded to the prospect of economic decline. In the case of Chinese-Americans, the recession exacerbated the gender imbalance at birth that is prevalent in this culture.

“When considering this evidence, governments might want to design fertility incentives or interventions that can vary when a recession hits.”