May 25, 2005

Sex Ratios in Asia

This link from Volokh is very clever, about an economist who realizes that a good part of the reason behind the male-heavy sex ratios in Asian and Arab countries come from Hepatitis B, a disease that for some reason causes women to have boys more than girls. It seems like a pretty decent hypothesis, but I do know that (at least in India) sex-selective abortion is a big thing. Supposedly they have ads in India saying it's better to spend $35 to $40 on aborting a female fetus than $3,500 to $4,000 on a bride's dowry.

Of course, before there was sex-selective abortion, there was sex-selective infanticide - often amounting to leaving the baby in a field or throwing it off a cliff, in any case to be eaten by scavengers. Hep B probably makes a good partial explanation of these factors, but human history suggests that there's likely some conscious influence factoring into the outcome.

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