, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 459–479 | Cite as

Five decades of missing females in China

  • Ansley J. CoaleEmail author
  • Judith Banister
Mortality, Race, and the Family


This paper seeks to explain the dearth of females in the population of China in cohorts born from the late 1930s to the present. We demonstrate that in virtually all cohorts. the shortage of females in comparison with males is revealed when the cohort is first enumerated in a census. Subsequently it barely changes, an indication that female losses occur very early in life. Using the high-quality data from the censuses and fertility surveys in China, we show that many of the births of the girls missing in the censuses were not reported in the surveys because they died very young. The incidence of excess early female mortality (probably infanticide) declined precipitously in the Communist period, but not to zero. The recent escalation in the proportion of young females missing in China has been caused largely by rapidly escalating sex-selective abortion.


Birth Order Marital Fertility Female Mortality Fertility Survey Model Life Table 
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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Office of Population ResearchPrinceton UniversityPrinceton
  2. 2.Center for International ResearchBureau of the CensusWashington

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