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New Study Claims To Have Found China’s 30 Million ‘Missing Women’

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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China’s one-child policy is said to have produced one of the worst gender gaps in the world, but two researchers are challenging this assertion.

At least 30 million women are supposedly “missing” from society due to the one-child policy, which resulted in regular sex-selective abortions and female infanticide, especially in rural areas.

Shi Yaojiang, a professor at Shaanxi Normal University, and John Kennedy, an associate professor of political science, have arrived at a very different conclusion after studying China’s gender gap for three decades.

“If 30 million women are truly missing, then there’s going to be more males than females of marriageable age as they start looking for wives. There is nothing more socially unstable than a bunch of testosterone with nowhere to go,” Kennedy explained to the University of Kansas News Service. But, China’s lonely young men may be in luck.

Evidence suggests the gender gap is much smaller.

The two researchers compared the number of births in 1990 to the number of 20-year-old men and women in 2010 and discovered noticeable differences. The numbers were off by about four million people, with one million more women than men.

If we go over a course of 25 years, it’s possible there are about 25 million women in the statistics that weren’t there at birth,” Kennedy said.

While the recently-abolished one-child policy had a dramatic impact on society, many Chinese families had more than one child. In some cases, families hid their excess children from local officials; in others, local officials turned a blind eye to the situation and reported lower birth figures. The officials recognized the difficulties of enforcing the one-child policy and made informal agreements with villagers to preserve social stability.

Kennedy and Shi assert that delayed registration and failure to register births to skirt the one-child policy led to a skewed gender gap.

The women aren’t missing; their births just simply were not reported.

The idea for the study was triggered by a chance encounter with a Chinese villager in the 1990s. The man had two daughters and a son, and he referred to his middle daughter as the “non-existent one.”

Shi and Kennedy published their findings earlier this month in The China Quarterly.

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