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China: Is the One Child Policy Slowing Growth?

Thanks to China’s one child only policies of the past 50 years, and a cultural preference for children who grow up to become personal safety nets, there are now 32 million more boys under the age of 20 than girls. Large scale interference with the natural male: female ratio has been tracked with some fascination by demographers for years, and is constantly generating unintended consequences. Until early in this century, starving rural mothers abandoned unwanted female newborns in the hills to be taken away by “spirits”. Today pregnant women resport to the modern day equivalent by getting ultrasounds and undergoing abortions when they learn they are carrying girls. The resulting shortage of women has led to an epidemic of “bride kidnapping” in surrounding countries. Stealing of male children is common. Political scientists have long speculated that an excess of young men would lead to more bellicose foreign policies by the Middle Kingdom. But so far the choice has been for commerce, to the detriment of America’s trade balance. Economists now wonder if the practice will also shave a few basis points off China’s long term growth rate. Parents with boys tend to be bigger savers, so they can help sons with the initial big ticket items in life, like an education, homes, and even cars. It’s not nice to fool with mother nature.