Saturday, April 28, 2007

Gender imbalance, sex-selective abortion in India

The phrase "gender imbalance" brings China to mind. But the male-female ratio in India is similarly skewed in favor of young men. UNICEF lists China as the global leader in imbalance, with India in second. The CIA has Azerbaijan at the top, followed by India and then China. The Indian disparity might be due in part to substantial regional differences, with the poorer north more skewed than the relatively prosperous south.

VDare's Brenda Walker recently wrote an article detailing several elements of Indian culture that are repugnant from a Western perspective. Gender-influenced infanticide, largely concentrated in Central and South Asia, is conspicuously among them. The WSJ ran an article last week dealing with the same (free here):
India has long struggled with an inordinate number of male births, and female infanticide -- the killing of newborn baby girls -- remains a problem. The abortion of female fetuses is a more recent trend, but unless "urgent action is taken," it's poised to escalate as the use of ultrasound services expands, the United Nations Children's Fund said in a report this year.
An uneven gender distribution in which males are more numerous than females is troublesome in a couple of ways. A shortage of adult females increases the prevalence of child marriage and the selling of young girls into the sex trafficking netherworld. Places with a significant number of single men do not enjoy the settling effects a more gender-balanced community tends to bring (Jamestown vs Massachusetts Bay). Despite being nominally illegal, the ubiquity of ultrasound machines in India (the subject of the WSJ article), available for use in many rural settlements that lack even drinking water or reliable electricity, is only going to perpetuate the trend.

Conventional wisdom says that large numbers of restless young men without mates are ideal fodder for military campaigns. In this way, India's gender imbalance can be seen as a sort of check against China. Despite the international business community's attempt to keep US-Chinese relations cordial, an evermore powerful PRC's willingness to economically and politically engage 'rogues' the US would like to see isolated is going to increasingly cause tension between the two. The enormous trade imbalance, China's ineptness in protecting intellectual property as well as an increasingly assertive attitude toward the question of Taiwan, and its hunger for resources do not bode well for such amiability, either. Additionally, acrimony towards the US is widespread in the Chinese military.

Using CIA figures, India currently has 16 million more boys than girls under the age of fifteen, while China has 14 million more. While India's annual GDP growth continues to be in the 8%-9% range and its government is less intrusive than China's, its estimated average IQ of 81 (and heaven knows how that's distributed across a complex and stratified Indian society) suggests it will not be able to keep apace with the PRC over the longer term.

Still, the Bush Administration's attempt to strengthen US-India relations strikes me as one of its bright spots. Applying specifically to Han Chinese and being more stringently enforced in cities than in the countryside, China's one-child policy is likely dysgenic. The Indian practice, in contrast, is probably mildly eugenic--the large dowry that Indian society demands the family of the bride to pay makes females especially unattractive to poorer families. Further, males are seen as monetary assets. More affluent families can better afford girls:
Boys in India are viewed as wealth earners during life and lighters of one's funeral pyre at death. India's National Family Health Survey, released in February, showed that 90% of parents with two sons didn't want any more children. Of those with two daughters, 38% wanted to try again.
Parenthetically, I wonder how pro-choice women's organizations like NARAL and NOW view gender-influenced feticide in India. The question is mostly academic since the issue isn't in play in the US. But, philosophically, it seems they're stuck between a rock and a hard place. Give legal protection to fetuses? That would allow more women to be born as well as help to combat the societal premium placed on males in Indian society. But the idea of recognizing the preborn as living things is anathema. Googling for an answer turns up little besides rhetorical jabs by pro-lifers at the conspicuous silence of American women's organizations on the Indian practice.

6 comments:

al fin said...

India has 16 million and China has 14 million--hmmm. India's army of excess males outnumbers China's.

And if India's policies are truly eugenic, and China's are dysgenic, China's push for Asian hegemony may be challenged by not only a dying Russia and a stagnant Japan, but also an ascendant India.

India is hemmed in by Pakistan to the west, and China to the north, but India has much better sea access than either China or Pakistan. (as long as Taiwan is a democratic nation independent of China.)

Audacious Epigone said...

Al,

Seems to me the best thing for the West is a balance of power in the East. I like the idea of a nuclear Japan, because it surrounds the PRC on all sides with nuclear powers. Further, India and China need both be ready to make moves on Pakistan if the Musharraf government is overthrown.

MensaRefugee said...

The dysgenics of China will clear up well before any substantial effect is felt. I predict this because of its stellar economic rise.

India has way too large a deficit for it to catch up. I mean, c'mon
IQ ~81 Vs IQ 105-110?

Audacious Epigone said...

Mensa,

Is China's that high? There are substantial portions of Indo-Chinese in southeastern China. Also, the steppe people in the west (ie Xinjiang province) are not the same ethnic Han in Hong Kong. About half of Chinese cities experience acid rain, and pollution in the areas undergoing sprawling development are environmental nightmares. I expect this has some negative effect on intelligence.

Lynn and Vanhanen estimated China's average IQ to be 100, about the equivalent to the global average for people of northwestern European descent. Seems reasonable to me.

Of course, even if it is closer to 100 than the 105-7 range of other East Asian nations, that's more than a SD gap between India and China--a gap greater than the one between white and black Americans. I too think it is exceedingly unlikely, short of GE, that the gap will disappear. But it might narrow.

JSBolton said...

New data on international IQ comparisons is being published in Intelligence, and GNXP has quotes and a map from it today.

Audacious Epigone said...

John,

Thanks for the heads up.

Please keep an eye out for the new indexed scores that take various aptitude and scholastic tests in addition to IQ test results into account.

The correlations between IQ and corruption, and IQ and economic freedom, are .82 and .75, respectively. The abstract doesn't give the new correlation with PPP that is supposedly stronger than economic freedom.