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Sex Ratio at Birth: is the South Caucasus Heading the Way of China?

This year, approximately 113 baby boys are born in China for every 100 baby girls; 112 boys per 100 girls in India, 111 in Vietnam. The looming social crisis stemming from the significant gender imbalance in the countries of East and Southeast Asia has been in the media spotlight for a long time. Unfortunately, the problem of gender imbalance is not confined to Asia.

According to the UN database, between 2005 and 2010, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia held second, third and fourth place in the world after China in gender imbalance statistics. The ratio of boys to girls at birth in these countries was 1.16, 1.15 and 1.11 respectively. With the natural ratio being somewhere in the range of 1.05-1.08, such high numbers of newborn boys are impossible to achieve without artificial intervention.

Even more alarmingly, the male to female ratio increases rather than declines for the cohort of children under 15 years of age. For example, according to 2011 estimates, in Georgia the boys/girls ratio at birth is 1.11 versus 1.15 for those under fifteen years old. In Armenia for the same year, the ratio increases from 1.12 to 1.15, and in Azerbaijan the increase is from 1.11 to 1.13. While far from being conclusive evidence, this increase may nevertheless be indicative of a further problem – the situation where scarce family resources – such as food, access to medical care – are allocated towards sons at the expense of daughters.

In general, the preference towards male offspring has both cultural and economic roots.  For example, according to Christophe Guilmoto, a senior fellow in demography at the IRD, France, the skewed sex ratio can be observed in patriarchal societies where following marriage, the female traditionally becomes a part of her husband’s family structure, and no longer contributes economically to the family of her birth. China, Korea and India are examples of such societies.

Thus the problem of preference for males can be cast as a classic case of externality. In societies where children are a form of investment and where the return on bringing up a girl cannot be completely appropriated by her family, there will be “underinvestment” in females. This leads to the phenomenon known as the “tragedy of the commons”. The balanced sex ratio is a common good, but precisely because its benefits accrue to the entire society and not to the family who brings up a girl, the balance is disturbed in favor of boys.

One interesting piece of evidence in support of the “tragedy of commons” explanation can be found in the evolution of the boys/girls ratio over time. As can be seen on the graph above, the balance began to deteriorate in the countries of the South Caucasus after the 1990s. In China - after the economic liberalization reforms of 1985. Could it be that the preference for boys became more pronounced exactly at the time when economic uncertainty became stronger, and when the old forms of social security started to fail, creating the need for extra “insurance”?

Of course the gender imbalance is not a sustainable social equilibrium. One way or another, the self-correcting mechanism will set in. These changes, however, are likely to be slow and confounded by high social costs - such as major disruptions in the traditional family structure, the possibility of increased violence against women and more aggressive and risky behavior on the part of men.

To overcome the tragedy of the commons, the government does not necessarily need to rely on subsidies. Improving social security schemes, or even more importantly, making a woman more economically empowered and independent in the society could go a long way towards breaking the trend and preventing the social crisis scenario.

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Guest - Maka on Wednesday, 30 November 2011 20:49

Thank you Yasya. This problem should be raised by different parts of the society. Your article as an economist’s view and suggested possible solutions were interesting. I would like to emphasize the role of religion, as possible solution of the problem. People in Georgia are becoming more religious and let’s hope that this will affect rate of artificial interventions.

Thank you Yasya. This problem should be raised by different parts of the society. Your article as an economist’s view and suggested possible solutions were interesting. I would like to emphasize the role of religion, as possible solution of the problem. People in Georgia are becoming more religious and let’s hope that this will affect rate of artificial interventions.
Guest - moonshine on Thursday, 01 December 2011 00:42

Could there not be a purely Darwinian (evolutionary) explanation for the phenomenon you are describing?

I am definitely not an expert on the subject, but I recall reading that the male/female ratio at birth fluctuates in response to levels of stress. For instance, when under extreme stress, e.g. during a war, humans tend to produce more boys (future fighters and reconstruction workers) needed for the species survival.

In a random search I found an article http://www.jstor.org/stable/2743339?seq=3 that lists an almost infinite number of theories that I find hard to judge. In any case, I can buy the "tragedy of the commons" explanation for societies in which the parents might kill their female offspring, but not for any other "normal" society.

The transition of the 90s was most painful and stressful for those countries that had seen their male/female ratio soar - Armenia and Azerbaijan. In addition to facing the usual economic challenges, these two countries had to fight each other (and even today's situation is best described is armistice). The combination of war and economic "transition" (or, rather, collapse) has been a mass killer for the male population of these two countries. I find it quite plausible, that in reaction to their tragedy, Armenians and Azeris were biologically reprogrammed to produce more boys.

Georgia, the third South Caucasus country, has fought two secession wars in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and had its fair share of economic woes. Thus, the same biological mechanism could have been at work.

The very mild upward adjustment in the male/female ratio in Eastern Europe is perfectly consistent with the mild nature of transition-induced stress (although I would hypothesize that Former Yugoslavia countries did experience a more serious upward shift in male/female ratio at birth - this can be easily tested empirically).

China is clearly a different story. It did not fight any wars, its transition was as smooth as it gets, and the purely evolutionary explanation must be rejected.

Could there not be a purely Darwinian (evolutionary) explanation for the phenomenon you are describing? I am definitely not an expert on the subject, but I recall reading that the male/female ratio at birth fluctuates in response to levels of stress. For instance, when under extreme stress, e.g. during a war, humans tend to produce more boys (future fighters and reconstruction workers) needed for the species survival. In a random search I found an article http://www.jstor.org/stable/2743339?seq=3 that lists an almost infinite number of theories that I find hard to judge. In any case, I can buy the "tragedy of the commons" explanation for societies in which the parents might kill their female offspring, but not for any other "normal" society. The transition of the 90s was most painful and stressful for those countries that had seen their male/female ratio soar - Armenia and Azerbaijan. In addition to facing the usual economic challenges, these two countries had to fight each other (and even today's situation is best described is armistice). The combination of war and economic "transition" (or, rather, collapse) has been a mass killer for the male population of these two countries. I find it quite plausible, that in reaction to their tragedy, Armenians and Azeris were biologically reprogrammed to produce more boys. Georgia, the third South Caucasus country, has fought two secession wars in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and had its fair share of economic woes. Thus, the same biological mechanism could have been at work. The very mild upward adjustment in the male/female ratio in Eastern Europe is perfectly consistent with the mild nature of transition-induced stress (although I would hypothesize that Former Yugoslavia countries did experience a more serious upward shift in male/female ratio at birth - this can be easily tested empirically). China is clearly a different story. It did not fight any wars, its transition was as smooth as it gets, and the purely evolutionary explanation must be rejected.
Guest - Yasya on Thursday, 01 December 2011 04:01

Interesting theory! I have heard of the "returning soldier effect", although cannot say much about the exact biological causes.

I am a little skeptical- can the biological effect of stress be as dramatic (and as persistent after the war) to account for the case of the South Caucasus?

There is indeed empirical evidence that more boys were born during and slightly after WWI and WWII in Western European countries. Here is the link to the article which looks at data from Germany http://repec.rwi-essen.de/files/REP_09_154.pdf
Would be interesting to test this for the South Caucasus vs. other regions that have gone through war experience.

Interesting theory! I have heard of the "returning soldier effect", although cannot say much about the exact biological causes. I am a little skeptical- can the biological effect of stress be as dramatic (and as persistent after the war) to account for the case of the South Caucasus? There is indeed empirical evidence that more boys were born during and slightly after WWI and WWII in Western European countries. Here is the link to the article which looks at data from Germany http://repec.rwi-essen.de/files/REP_09_154.pdf Would be interesting to test this for the South Caucasus vs. other regions that have gone through war experience.
Guest - Yasya on Thursday, 01 December 2011 04:46

I just checked the UN database again - based on five year averages there was absolutely no change in the sex ratio at birth for any of the former Yugoslav republics!

http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?d=PopDiv&f=variableID%3A52

Very curious! Maybe if there was an uptick, it was very short-lived (would have to check yearly data)

I just checked the UN database again - based on five year averages there was absolutely no change in the sex ratio at birth for any of the former Yugoslav republics! http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?d=PopDiv&f=variableID%3A52 Very curious! Maybe if there was an uptick, it was very short-lived (would have to check yearly data)
Guest - Florian on Wednesday, 14 December 2011 22:42

What you say about the stress factor is true. In Germany, after the second world war there was a much higher percentage of female births. Some people explain that by the stress imposed on the people by rebuilding the country. A large part of the rebuilding was done by women (the so called "Truemmerfrauen" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trümmerfrau ). Furthermore, there were severe difficulties for young women to find a partner, as there was a huge shortage of males in Germany after the war. This caused additional stress. As a result, the ratio of male and female citizens relatively quickly returned to the normal level.

What you say about the stress factor is true. In Germany, after the second world war there was a much higher percentage of female births. Some people explain that by the stress imposed on the people by rebuilding the country. A large part of the rebuilding was done by women (the so called "Truemmerfrauen" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trümmerfrau ). Furthermore, there were severe difficulties for young women to find a partner, as there was a huge shortage of males in Germany after the war. This caused additional stress. As a result, the ratio of male and female citizens relatively quickly returned to the normal level.
Guest - kashmiri on Thursday, 01 December 2011 02:12

Well, this socio-economic analysis skips out an important factor. Whilst cultural and economic considerations make families prefer bys to girls, it is the advent of readily available ultrasonography and foetal sex determination that stands behind the 1990s jump in ratio imbalance. Thus, we can keep rambling about an economic impact of boys and girls; but if we only deprived society of ultrasound technology, sex ratio among newborns would improve in an instant...

Well, this socio-economic analysis skips out an important factor. Whilst cultural and economic considerations make families prefer bys to girls, it is the advent of readily available ultrasonography and foetal sex determination that stands behind the 1990s jump in ratio imbalance. Thus, we can keep rambling about an economic impact of boys and girls; but if we only deprived society of ultrasound technology, sex ratio among newborns would improve in an instant...
Guest - moonshine on Thursday, 01 December 2011 04:55

First, the male/female ratio at birth has been fluctuating before the advent of ultrasonography. For instance, during and after WWI and WWII (see http://repec.rwi-essen.de/files/REP_09_154.pdf referenced by Yaroslava).

Second, the availability of ultrasonography and any other "early warning" technology did not fundamentally change this ratio for most countries over time. As the authors of the above publication note "slight excess of boys among newborns is remarkably stable across different populations, regions, and times".

Thus, technology does not come close to explaining why the South Caucasus countries are where they are on this ratio since 1990s.

First, the male/female ratio at birth has been fluctuating before the advent of ultrasonography. For instance, during and after WWI and WWII (see http://repec.rwi-essen.de/files/REP_09_154.pdf referenced by Yaroslava). Second, the availability of ultrasonography and any other "early warning" technology did not fundamentally change this ratio for most countries over time. As the authors of the above publication note "slight excess of boys among newborns is remarkably stable across different populations, regions, and times". Thus, technology does not come close to explaining why the South Caucasus countries are where they are on this ratio since 1990s.
Guest - moonshine on Thursday, 01 December 2011 04:43

Thanks for linking the article, Yasya. It is interesting that the causal mechanism these guys test is as follows "the larger the female marriage market squeeze in a county, the more on average the sex ratio at birth increases." Now, war is definitely a pretty effective means of reducing the male population. Transition from socialism to a "market economy" is another way to achieve the same objective. The combination of these two factors is what, in my view, makes the South Caucasus a unique case study in human biology.

Thanks for linking the article, Yasya. It is interesting that the causal mechanism these guys test is as follows "the larger the female marriage market squeeze in a county, the more on average the sex ratio at birth increases." Now, war is definitely a pretty effective means of reducing the male population. Transition from socialism to a "market economy" is another way to achieve the same objective. The combination of these two factors is what, in my view, makes the South Caucasus a unique case study in human biology.
Guest - Zak on Thursday, 01 December 2011 17:05

Here is more puzzling question: if your data is right (and would you please reverse the time axis so that passage of time is read in a conventional way?) the sex ratio in China has dropped dramatically in recent (perhaps the current) year from the average of 1.2 to 1.13. This is something extraordinary! I have not heard any special policies implemented in recent years in China with this respect. I wonder what is the explanation.

As concerning the first comment posted here: although I acknowledge the gravity of the problem discussed in the post for the region, let's not hope that it will be resolved with another social trend that would bring even worse problems to the Caucasus.

Here is more puzzling question: if your data is right (and would you please reverse the time axis so that passage of time is read in a conventional way?) the sex ratio in China has dropped dramatically in recent (perhaps the current) year from the average of 1.2 to 1.13. This is something extraordinary! I have not heard any special policies implemented in recent years in China with this respect. I wonder what is the explanation. As concerning the first comment posted here: although I acknowledge the gravity of the problem discussed in the post for the region, let's not hope that it will be resolved with another social trend that would bring even worse problems to the Caucasus.
Guest - Yasya on Friday, 02 December 2011 01:38

Thanks for the tip, Zak, now I hope things look more conventional. And you are right, the yearly estimate seems extraordinary!

This may be because the data is taken from two different sources (not exactly my data, since I did not compile it) - the 5 year averages are from the UN database ( http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?d=PopDiv&f=variableID%3A52 ) and yearly estimate from CIA World Factbooks ( https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/aj.htmlO ) Unfortunately, there are no yearly estimates in the UN database.

Although both sources claim to be basing their findings on surveys and Chinese census data, the results may be off. It would be good to verify this using the original census data and reliable surveys.

Here are the links to two studies (one on China - although only until 2005 ) and another one on the South Caucasus.

Thanks for the tip, Zak, now I hope things look more conventional. And you are right, the yearly estimate seems extraordinary! This may be because the data is taken from two different sources (not exactly my data, since I did not compile it) - the 5 year averages are from the UN database ( http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?d=PopDiv&f=variableID%3A52 ) and yearly estimate from CIA World Factbooks ( https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/aj.htmlO ) Unfortunately, there are no yearly estimates in the UN database. Although both sources claim to be basing their findings on surveys and Chinese census data, the results may be off. It would be good to verify this using the original census data and reliable surveys. Here are the links to two studies (one on China - although only until 2005 ) and another one on the South Caucasus.
Guest - Yasya on Friday, 02 December 2011 01:41
http://www.unfpa.org/gender/docs/studies/china.pdf http://www.cicred.org/Eng/Publications/pdf/BOOK_singapore.pdf#page=85 (Starting from page 73)
Guest - i.j. on Friday, 02 December 2011 02:53

Interesting, however I do not agree with the statement that "such high numbers of newborn boys are impossible to achieve without artificial intervention". This statement basically implies that people artificially end pregnancy, meaning abortion. And now we people who live in this region and know it quite well, do you think there is a significant number of abortions in Armenia, Azerbaijan or Georgia? Hm, I was told by an important professor of Development Economics that in former Soviet Union, particulalry in Armenia some 20 percent of population is illiterate and he was spending time trying to understand the phenomena, on my comment that it is wrong, it can not be that 20 percent of Armenia is illiterate he said to me that he knows it for sure from trusted sources, when I said I am from Armenia and know what goes on there, he concluded that I do not know what happens in Armenia. Now, do we people of the region know what goes on in our countries? Do we really think that people after they learn the child will be a girl run to the hospital for abortion?! The article is interesting, but it somehow imperatively indicates the reason behind the observed phenomenon, which I think is not consistent with facts. If you look more carefully you will find that in rural areas where technical advances are less and ultrasound does not exists, the ration of boys to girls is even more, which may indicate that patriarchal rural population practices more abortion than more or less emancipated urban population.

Interesting, however I do not agree with the statement that "such high numbers of newborn boys are impossible to achieve without artificial intervention". This statement basically implies that people artificially end pregnancy, meaning abortion. And now we people who live in this region and know it quite well, do you think there is a significant number of abortions in Armenia, Azerbaijan or Georgia? Hm, I was told by an important professor of Development Economics that in former Soviet Union, particulalry in Armenia some 20 percent of population is illiterate and he was spending time trying to understand the phenomena, on my comment that it is wrong, it can not be that 20 percent of Armenia is illiterate he said to me that he knows it for sure from trusted sources, when I said I am from Armenia and know what goes on there, he concluded that I do not know what happens in Armenia. Now, do we people of the region know what goes on in our countries? Do we really think that people after they learn the child will be a girl run to the hospital for abortion?! The article is interesting, but it somehow imperatively indicates the reason behind the observed phenomenon, which I think is not consistent with facts. If you look more carefully you will find that in rural areas where technical advances are less and ultrasound does not exists, the ration of boys to girls is even more, which may indicate that patriarchal rural population practices more abortion than more or less emancipated urban population.
Guest - Yasya on Friday, 02 December 2011 16:57

Thanks for the comment, i.j.!

Artificial intervention does not necessarily mean sex-selective abortion. Artificial intervention means any deliberate action which results in skewing of the sex ratio at birth. It can even be a choice of diet which contributes to the higher probability of having a boy – one would not need an ultrasound technology to practice this method. (By the way, the highest boy/girl ratios in China are in rural areas with I would think quite limited access to ultrasound technology)

My argument in this post is not about abortion or sex-selective perinatal infanticide - quite simply, no one can make that claim without having reliable data at hand.
Presumably one would need (just to start with) the reliable time series on abortion rates, sex ratio of stillbirths, sex ratio of perinatal death rate (defined by the World Health Organization as the number of stillbirths and deaths in the first week of life per 1,000 live births).

My argument is rather about the social preference for having a male over female offspring; the economic reasons behind and the consequences of such a preference.

Thanks for the comment, i.j.! Artificial intervention does not necessarily mean sex-selective abortion. Artificial intervention means any deliberate action which results in skewing of the sex ratio at birth. It can even be a choice of diet which contributes to the higher probability of having a boy – one would not need an ultrasound technology to practice this method. (By the way, the highest boy/girl ratios in China are in rural areas with I would think quite limited access to ultrasound technology) My argument in this post is not about abortion or sex-selective perinatal infanticide - quite simply, no one can make that claim without having reliable data at hand. Presumably one would need (just to start with) the reliable time series on abortion rates, sex ratio of stillbirths, sex ratio of perinatal death rate (defined by the World Health Organization as the number of stillbirths and deaths in the first week of life per 1,000 live births). My argument is rather about the social preference for having a male over female offspring; the economic reasons behind and the consequences of such a preference.
Guest - i.j. on Friday, 02 December 2011 21:12

Then I guess it is more an agenda for medical research, as it is not yet well established that diet can result in certain birth outcome, what is even more important, I hardly believe people in rural areas people how to manipulate the diet to have male offspring. This is especially interesting for me, as just in this month my three friends and their first child, and all of the three children were girls, and fathers are extremely happy and proud and all of them come from very different social background, thus at least for Armenia, I guess actively interfering to get male offspring is not relevant. I know so many people whose only child is a girl and who do not want to get more children happy enough to have a daughter. I would call you to pay attention that Armenia stands out in the region by extreme low fertility rates, rates comparable with Scandinavian countries: something like 1.7 children per mother. This is in such a contrast with situation in Georgia and especially in Azerbaijan, see that less children and preferences for males with artificial intervention may mean that Armenia in this case needs to have the highest density of boys, is it so? The preproduction pattern in three countries are different as three countries are extremely different socially and culturally (probably not for my professors for whom anybody from Soviet Union is Russian), yet the nations are extremely different and assumption of the same reproductive behavior needs to be well established and supported.
Except diet what else you think can be as a means of artificial intervention?
regards
I.J.

Then I guess it is more an agenda for medical research, as it is not yet well established that diet can result in certain birth outcome, what is even more important, I hardly believe people in rural areas people how to manipulate the diet to have male offspring. This is especially interesting for me, as just in this month my three friends and their first child, and all of the three children were girls, and fathers are extremely happy and proud and all of them come from very different social background, thus at least for Armenia, I guess actively interfering to get male offspring is not relevant. I know so many people whose only child is a girl and who do not want to get more children happy enough to have a daughter. I would call you to pay attention that Armenia stands out in the region by extreme low fertility rates, rates comparable with Scandinavian countries: something like 1.7 children per mother. This is in such a contrast with situation in Georgia and especially in Azerbaijan, see that less children and preferences for males with artificial intervention may mean that Armenia in this case needs to have the highest density of boys, is it so? The preproduction pattern in three countries are different as three countries are extremely different socially and culturally (probably not for my professors for whom anybody from Soviet Union is Russian), yet the nations are extremely different and assumption of the same reproductive behavior needs to be well established and supported. Except diet what else you think can be as a means of artificial intervention? regards I.J.
Guest - Yasya on Saturday, 03 December 2011 02:47

Actually, i.j. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on why the boys/girls ratio in all three countries has jumped so abruptly (and stayed high) after the 1990s.

Unless of course you think that the data itself is biased or otherwise incorrect
All I can tell you is that UN data is based on the countries' census data and Demographic Health Survey data.
You can check out for yourself the website of the Statistical Service of the Republic of Armenia – the Demographic handbook of 2010. You can look up similar information from Georgia and Azerbaijan on the web.

http://www.armstat.am/en/?nid=81&id=1201
http://www.armstat.am/file/article/demos_10_3.pdf (page 58)

Actually, i.j. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on why the boys/girls ratio in all three countries has jumped so abruptly (and stayed high) after the 1990s. Unless of course you think that the data itself is biased or otherwise incorrect All I can tell you is that UN data is based on the countries' census data and Demographic Health Survey data. You can check out for yourself the website of the Statistical Service of the Republic of Armenia – the Demographic handbook of 2010. You can look up similar information from Georgia and Azerbaijan on the web. http://www.armstat.am/en/?nid=81&id=1201 http://www.armstat.am/file/article/demos_10_3.pdf (page 58)
Guest - i.j. on Saturday, 03 December 2011 05:30

I do not know why it happened, but I am somehow OK with "returning solider stuff", what I know is when I look at school pictures of my parents (both of them were born and attended schools in the central district of the capital) I remember to notice that majority of the children were boys. Now it was 1950s and Armenia was not a Central Asian or traditional Muslim country where girls were banned or reluctantly sent to school, it was Soviet Union in addition, all children were in school especially in capitals and central districts of the capital. Yet it is again hard to argue what is behind observed results.
I do not say there can not be certain reason behind the bias in gender (and certainly I do not refute there is a bias), yet I assert that three countries are extremely different and finding one common reason would be difficult. Think of this, preferences over girls somehow are related to the role woman in society and her social functions. See that for example in Armenia smocking woman is almost a shock while in Georgia smoking woman is almost natural. But this means that societies treat woman differently, thus hard to believe there can be a common reason behind the bias of gender. I would suggest to use the average age of marrying, the age of having first child and proportion of woman who quited jobs after getting married to be compared and o see that woman plays significantly different roles in considered three societies. Than try to come up with theory which would explain differences (I believe they are different, but better to check it in a rigorous way). These variables can be used further as instruments for non observable characteristics of societies. Consider again the case of 1.7 children per mother in Armenia, does Armenia have really huge density of boys? 1,7 children means that a lot of families have only one child, so the proportion of boys should be much-much higher than in Georgia or Azerbaijan if there are strict preferences for boys. Consider the fact that say Armenians in Georgia (Javakheti) have on average more children than even Armenians in rural areas of Armenia, but this means that we can not attribute bias even to the ethnically specific treats. I would try to see whether the boys bias is present among Armenians of Javakheti and Azerbaijanis of Marneuli. The absence of bias would mean that "returning solider" may be valid reason as neither Armenians of Javakheti nor Azerbaijanis of Marneuli (Lower Kartli) participated in secession wars of Georgia nor any significantly in Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. yet I can not seriously speak about "returning soldier" phenomenon. Again, for me, this seems to be more of subject to a medical rather than economic sociological research.
Concerning abortion and infanticide, hard to believe that latest boom in Georgia caused by people who have third child in order him/her to be baptized by Patriarch of Georgia generate infanticide, religious people will go on abortion or infanticide to get boys?!
My main objection is my believe, as a potential economist I need to believe:-), that there are different causes behind each case and that clearly at least in Armenia artificial selection can not be though of as being done by means of abortion or infanticide.

I do not know why it happened, but I am somehow OK with "returning solider stuff", what I know is when I look at school pictures of my parents (both of them were born and attended schools in the central district of the capital) I remember to notice that majority of the children were boys. Now it was 1950s and Armenia was not a Central Asian or traditional Muslim country where girls were banned or reluctantly sent to school, it was Soviet Union in addition, all children were in school especially in capitals and central districts of the capital. Yet it is again hard to argue what is behind observed results. I do not say there can not be certain reason behind the bias in gender (and certainly I do not refute there is a bias), yet I assert that three countries are extremely different and finding one common reason would be difficult. Think of this, preferences over girls somehow are related to the role woman in society and her social functions. See that for example in Armenia smocking woman is almost a shock while in Georgia smoking woman is almost natural. But this means that societies treat woman differently, thus hard to believe there can be a common reason behind the bias of gender. I would suggest to use the average age of marrying, the age of having first child and proportion of woman who quited jobs after getting married to be compared and o see that woman plays significantly different roles in considered three societies. Than try to come up with theory which would explain differences (I believe they are different, but better to check it in a rigorous way). These variables can be used further as instruments for non observable characteristics of societies. Consider again the case of 1.7 children per mother in Armenia, does Armenia have really huge density of boys? 1,7 children means that a lot of families have only one child, so the proportion of boys should be much-much higher than in Georgia or Azerbaijan if there are strict preferences for boys. Consider the fact that say Armenians in Georgia (Javakheti) have on average more children than even Armenians in rural areas of Armenia, but this means that we can not attribute bias even to the ethnically specific treats. I would try to see whether the boys bias is present among Armenians of Javakheti and Azerbaijanis of Marneuli. The absence of bias would mean that "returning solider" may be valid reason as neither Armenians of Javakheti nor Azerbaijanis of Marneuli (Lower Kartli) participated in secession wars of Georgia nor any significantly in Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. yet I can not seriously speak about "returning soldier" phenomenon. Again, for me, this seems to be more of subject to a medical rather than economic sociological research. Concerning abortion and infanticide, hard to believe that latest boom in Georgia caused by people who have third child in order him/her to be baptized by Patriarch of Georgia generate infanticide, religious people will go on abortion or infanticide to get boys?! My main objection is my believe, as a potential economist I need to believe:-), that there are different causes behind each case and that clearly at least in Armenia artificial selection can not be though of as being done by means of abortion or infanticide.
Guest - i.j. on Saturday, 03 December 2011 05:33

P.S. are you serious about relying on date from Armenian, Georgian and Azerbaijani statistical offices?! :-D (joke)

P.S. are you serious about relying on date from Armenian, Georgian and Azerbaijani statistical offices?! :-D (joke)
Guest - i.j. on Saturday, 03 December 2011 09:59

P.S.2
:-)
By the way, about returning soldier, see that though more boys are born, yet woman of age 20-35 have problems finding a match, guess why? Emigration, huge number of young man leave country to work and permanently reside abroad. This effectively reduces number of available men significantly. Even higher ratio of boys born is not able to compensate disparity between man and woman when they reach 20-35. I guess this is true for all three countries as all of them experienced and up to now experience significant population (male population) drain.
regards
I.J.

P.S.2 :-) By the way, about returning soldier, see that though more boys are born, yet woman of age 20-35 have problems finding a match, guess why? Emigration, huge number of young man leave country to work and permanently reside abroad. This effectively reduces number of available men significantly. Even higher ratio of boys born is not able to compensate disparity between man and woman when they reach 20-35. I guess this is true for all three countries as all of them experienced and up to now experience significant population (male population) drain. regards I.J.
Guest - moonshine on Sunday, 04 December 2011 02:24

My Facebook friend suggested this link http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2008-12/why-does-war-breed-more-boys that supports the "returning soldier" hypothesis on genetic grounds (though not very convincingly). I particularly liked a comment therein that links the production of boys to levels of testosterone in males during war times (or upon returning home from battle).

My Facebook friend suggested this link http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2008-12/why-does-war-breed-more-boys that supports the "returning soldier" hypothesis on genetic grounds (though not very convincingly). I particularly liked a comment therein that links the production of boys to levels of testosterone in males during war times (or upon returning home from battle).
Guest - Yasya on Sunday, 04 December 2011 15:59

Interesting. Love to see all the competing theories! :-) Although I doubt the post did justice to the original article - as you said, the explanation in the post itself was not very convincing. To quote one of the comments below: "The idea that fathering more boys than girls is genetically inherited is unlikely since over time (in both peace and in war) more and more men with that trait would be born, eventually overwhelming the other type of man". That about sums up my intuition.

I am pretty sure the study paints a more nuanced picture ( need to read it more carefully, but I am yet to find the full version).

As for the testosterone level explanation - sounds intriguing and intuitive. To see whether there is something to this claim, we need for starters to compare the South Caucasus with other countries that have gone through similar conflict situations!

Interesting. Love to see all the competing theories! :-) Although I doubt the post did justice to the original article - as you said, the explanation in the post itself was not very convincing. To quote one of the comments below: "The idea that fathering more boys than girls is genetically inherited is unlikely since over time (in both peace and in war) more and more men with that trait would be born, eventually overwhelming the other type of man". That about sums up my intuition. I am pretty sure the study paints a more nuanced picture ( need to read it more carefully, but I am yet to find the full version). As for the testosterone level explanation - sounds intriguing and intuitive. To see whether there is something to this claim, we need for starters to compare the South Caucasus with other countries that have gone through similar conflict situations!
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