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Unnatural Selection: The Causes and Consequences of Asia’s Sex Ratio Imbalance

Thursday, September 29, 2011
12:00 AM
4th floor Forum Hall, U-M Palmer Commons, 100 Washtenaw Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI

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Mara Hvistendahl, Correspondent and Author

Sex-selective abortion and other forms of sex selection have spread across Asia in the past three decades, with the result that an estimated 160 million females are missing from the continent’s population. Significantly skewed sex ratios at birth have been observed in other regions as well; in addition to China, India, Taiwan, Vietnam, and, until recently, South Korea, significantly more boys than girls are now born in Albania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia. That gap is yielding dramatic consequences, including the buying of brides from poorer regions and countries, an increase in sex trafficking, and rising social instability.

The sex ratio imbalance is often explained as the product of entrenched cultural traditions leading couples to favor sons and the fertility pressure placed on them by measures such as the one-child policy. But the full story of why more boys are born is much more complex.

Mara Hvistendahl is a Beijing-based correspondent for Science and the author of Unnatural Selection:Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men.Her award-winning writing has also appeared in Harper’s, Scientific American, Popular Science,theFinancial Times,andForeign Policy.Proficient in both Spanish and Chinese, she has spent half of the past decade in China, where she has reported on everything from archaeology to the space program. A former journalism professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, Hvistendahl sits on the advisory board of Round Earth Media, an organization founded to promote international journalism.

This presentation is co-sponsored by the centers for International and Comparative Studies, South Asian Studies, Southeast Asian Studies, and the Nam Center for Korean Studies of the University of Michigan.