China’s one-child policy, instituted in 1979, has made it the most gender-imbalanced country in the world, with 117.78 boys for every 100 girls. Since the Chinese culture traditionally favors males, massive numbers of female babies have been aborted.
Policies to rebalance the sex ratio at birth will take decades to reduce the sex ratio at reproductive age and any associated allowance for higher fertility would slow growth in real per capita income. Yet our results suggest that more than offsetting gains could accrue from productivity improvements stemming from reduced crime.
China alone stands to have as many unmarried young men—“bare branches,” as they are known—as the entire population of young men in America. In any country rootless young males spell trouble; in Asian societies, where marriage and children are the recognised routes into society, single men are almost like outlaws. Crime rates, bride trafficking, sexual violence, even female suicide rates are all rising and will rise further as the lopsided generations reach their maturity.
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) estimates that incidents of social unrest have risen from about 40,000 in 2001 to “over 90,000” in 2009. CASS also reports that these incidents are becoming larger, more violent, more likely to cross provincial borders, and more diverse in terms of participants and grievances.