Gender imbalances
Posted by aogTuesday, 03 December 2002 at 13:13 TrackBack Ping URL

There are a couple of good posts (here and here) over at the Brothers Judd on some of the demographic problem of gender imbalance in India and China. There is some interesting commentary but I was away while the interesting bits were discussed so I have to weigh in from over here.

One of the posters points out that while market forces will tend to correct the problem, there latency inherent in population issues makes this a very inelastic market - supply takes a long time to catch up with demand. I will now leave the land of facts and travel the wilds of speculation - after all, that's what you pay me for.

One of the first things I expect to see is negotiations on dowries, particularly in India. The dowry is a big part of why daughters are not favored. But now, instead of a family having to pay a huge dowry, then can say "well, we can't really afford that kind of dowry, I guess your son will just have to find another bride. What, you've been looking for two years? How sad. I'd like to help, but we're in a bit of a budget crunch right now...". Smaller dowries will also make bride burning less profitable and the general shortage should make it far less acceptable. One would hope that general reverence for life and law would suffice, but it clearly hasn't yet.

There may well be much more assertiveness by women. Divorce will become less stigmatic, because better a divorcee for a wife than none at all. This will give women far more leverage against husbands, because leaving him and getting married again will be a far more plausible scenario.

But I think that over a generation or two this will correct itself. Families will become desperate enough that they will have to start letting women inherit or have real power. And once that happens, there's no going back. As in the US during WWII, women went to the factories and never really left. There was an attempt to go back to the status quo ante, but it was doomed. I believe that the same thing will happen in India and China, that once (by demographics) those societies are forced to value girls, it will not be possible to reverse that even if the demographics revert to normal (the latter being a normal consequence of valuing girls as much as boys).

As a far out issue, there is the fact that this gender imbalance will exert a significant braking effect on population growth. Fewer women means fewer children - the number of men is to a large extent irrelevant.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
oj Tuesday, 03 December 2002 at 23:03

When has being in the minority ever benefited a group politically? It’s surely no coincidence that the rise of the nanny-state came after women got the vote. Now that they are moving toward minority status we should expect to see them begin losing the political gains they’d made, not racking up new ones.

Oh, and, Welcome back.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 04 December 2002 at 20:52

I’m not claiming political benefits, unless you consider raising the glass cieling a political benefit. Technically there is no gender discrimination in either China or India, so it’s difficult to believe that any change in the de facto status will be political in origin or effect.

Second, I think one can make the case that women (as a minority) are a special case. One may well like having diverse neighbors, but not having any minority neighbors is hardly a major disaster. Not having a wife and children is quite a different matter. Moreover, when everyone is directly related to members of the minority, then other loyalties are an issue. One might not give over the family business to a close friend who is a minority, but to a daughter? Just not the same thing.

End of Discussion