The Gender Disparity in China: Will China's Men Experience Difficulty Finding a Wife?
by Rich Deem


China's Men on Rampage?

I received an email from Breakpoint, a usually reliable source of information primarily aimed at examining Christian and secular worldviews. The article blamed a riot in China on "China's testosterone problem," quoted from a New Republic article. According to the story, riots of this kind were going to become more common as China's gender imbalance led to a widespread inability of Chinese men to find wives (and, hence, get into all kinds of mischief). The statistics seemed a little out-of-whack, since I had done previous research on the topic. How serious is China's gender imbalance?

Rich Deem

In 1979 China began a one child per couple policy in an attempt to limit the growth of its population. The policy has been quite successful in slowing China's population explosion. In fact, discussing the issue with a young Chinese researcher in my lab revealed that he is convinced that one child is the preferable family size. However, as with most Asian cultures, there is a strong preference for male children (when I have mentioned that I have three sons in our lunchroom, the Asians present seemed quite impressed and envious). Because the penalty for breaking the one child policy is quite high (including fines and forced abortion), most Chinese couples want a male child on their first attempt. Since human reproductive biology normally results in approximately equal numbers of males and females, a large number of couples are disappointed in nature's outcome. However, with advanced technology, it is now easy to determine the sex of one's fetus before birth. Although officially outlawed, sex-selective abortions were and are performed to ensure that a female child is not born. For those without access to such technology (such as in rural areas), the "solution" has been female infanticide. Exactly how common such evils are committed is difficult to determine. However, the results of such activities can be estimated through the ratio of males:females in China.

How many excess males?

An article in New Republic1 (and others put out mostly by conservative/Christian sources) suggested that the China's gender imbalance problem was so widespread that China was going to run out of marriageable females within a short period of time. The article says that there are 37 million excess men in China compared to women. The statistic is true, but not mentioned is that this number is based upon a total population of over 1.3 billion. Out of this number, 37 million represents only 2.9%. Also not mentioned is that throughout the world most younger populations have an excess of males to females. If one examines the population of the United States, one finds that males outnumber females 105:100, both at birth and for ages 0-14 years old.2 In China, the ratio is slightly higher at 111:100 at birth and 113:100 for ages 0-14 years.3 Even if one examines the U.S. population statistics for people 0-65 years of age, one finds a gender imbalance of over 1 million excess males. Nobody seems to ask the question, "Who will these 1,000,000 men marry?"

The figure to the right shows gender ratios for several countries (including the European Union - 27 independent countries). Worldwide, the average male excess up to age 14 is 105:100. Both China and India exceed this number by a few percent, due to female infanticide and sex-selective abortions.

Conclusion Top of page

Conservatives' concern for how China's gender imbalance will affect their political stability seems somewhat exaggerated. Obviously, as Christians, we oppose abortion for sex selection purposes and female infanticide. Such crimes against humanity should be of much greater concern to us than worrying about how 2.9% excess males in China will find wives. God created both males and females in His image,4 so destroying female human beings is a serious departure from God's plan.

References Top of page

  1. Unnatural SelectionNo Country for Young Men: China's testosterone problem by Mara Hvistendahl, The New Republic.
  2. The CIA World Factbook, United States
  3. The CIA World Factbook, China Original Data
  4. Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
Last Modified July 21, 2008


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