Gender Ratios in Asia

Created: January 8, 2016 Last Modified: August 19, 2021

Note: All ratios are written as Men to Women. A high gender ratio means more men than women.

Asian countries known are predominately male. We can see the trend by looking at our list of countries with the Highest and Lowest Gender Ratios in the world.

Across all Asian countries the gender ratio is 1.05 men to women. The average ratio around the world is 1.01. China has a ratio of 107 men to 100 women. India has a ratio of 112 men to women. Together, India and China have a population of over 2.5 billion people making up over 35% of the world population.

There has been a lack of women in Asia since the 1950's. Since then the gender ratio gap has been growing wider every year. So what causes there to be more men than women in Asia? Is pollution to blame? China's One-Child policy? Genetics? or something else?

First, we will take a look at gender ratios at birth for China. We see that at birth in China there is a ratio of 115 men to 100 women. This is much higher than the world average of 103 men to women at birth.

This indicates that the causes of the gender ratio gap in Asia is not a factor of disease or illness -- but something else. Also, if a natural genetic predisposition to having males was the blame, the trend would not have just started in the 1950's. There is a slight genetic predisposition to having male children over female. Some have suggested this is natures way of compensating for the effects of war and for mens' propensity for risk-taking. However, the birth rates in Asia countries are skewed much more then the global average.

Pollution could be a possible cause for the gender ratio gap. Asia has many developing countries and has some of the worst air pollution in the world. Much of the industrialization started happening around the 1950's. This correlation suggests the two factors may be related. More research would be needed to conclude causation.

China's one-child policy is likely cause. Until recently, over 50% of China's population was allowed to have one child if it was a boy and was allowed to have a second child if the first one was a girl. If couples in China continued to have children until they were no longer allowed to there are three possible gender outcomes:

  1. first child male
  2. first child female, second child male
  3. first child female, second child female

Odds of the first case are 50-50; odds of the second case are 25%; odds of the third scenario are 25%. This means that the overall expected child birth ratio is 50-50. So the one-child policy does not immediately seem to be a huge factor. China's one-child policy reveals a cultural preference for male children over female.

Another possible factor causing more men in Asian countries is life expectancy. We can see in many Asian countries, the gender ratio remains high (more men than women) well into the 55 to 64 year old demographic. The world average for this age group is much lower (more women).

Around the rest of the world, life expectancies for men low than that of women. This data suggests that in Asian countries, life expectancy for men and women are closer together, causing the skewed gender ratios to last into old age and contributing to the overall skew.

There are many factors contributing to the gender ratio divide in Asian countries. Pollution, One-Child Policy, Life Expectancies, and Cultural trends all are potential culprits. However, more research would be needed to identify definitive results.

China's One-Child Policy has been ended as of October 2015. In the future, it will be interesting to see if this change has an impact on long term gender trends. There are many changes happening as well -- such as reductions in pollution. It will always be difficult to completely isolate all causes.

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