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Unnatural Selection, Mara Hvistendahl


Although my grandmother has reminded me for years of her desire for male descendants, I was unaware that this particular inclination was reflected across a number of other cultures, including non-Asian societies. An article from the New York Times pointed out the imbalance in sex ratio found in many countries, and this book was referenced. As the author explains at the beginning, she too had several assumptions about selecting for sex, which included blaming the one-child policy in China, that educating women resulted in an increase in demand for daughters. She also points out the facts that are known — the biologically expected birth ratio should be 105 boys to every 100 girls — and that anything over 106 is suspect; in some areas she found ratios upwards of 150:100. She interviews doctors in India who have performed hundreds of abortions for couples who do not want female children; talks to government officials who staunchly deny that there is any problem regarding birth ratio in their countries; considers the Western push for contraceptives, abortions, and other forms of population control in rapidly developing countries; meets with young families who want sons, and seeks to understand why they are willing to forgo daughters, knowing as they do that their children will have difficulty finding wives when they come of age, but willing to risk that anyway.

This is definitely an interesting read; students of socioeconomics, gender, demographics, and sociology will find issues and arguments pertinent to their fields. As a woman of child-bearing age in a Western society, this gave me much to think about regarding children and future generations.

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