'Political explanation'

Researchers claim to have found millions of ‘missing girls’ in China

(Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

After decades of living under a harsh one-child policy, the discrepancy between the number of male and female births in China became so large that researchers estimated 30 to 60 million girls to be “missing” from the country’s population. According to new research from John Kennedy of the University of Kansas and Shi Yaojiang of Shaanxi Normal University, however, the “missing girls” might not be dead but simply unregistered — the result, they argue, of local officials who helped villagers conceal the existence of their daughters.

“Most people are using a demographic explanation to say that abortion or infanticide are the reasons they don’t show up in the census and that they don’t exist. But we find there is a political explanation,” said Kennedy. “The people who are implementing these policies work for the government in a sense. They are officials, but they are also villagers, and they have to live in the village where they are implementing policies.”

Since the mid-1980s, villagers have been entitled to a second child if their firstborn was a girl. But in an interview conducted by Kennedy and Yaojiang in 1996, a villager with three children told them that his youngest daughter was “the nonexistent one.” After comparing the number of children born in 1990 with the number of 20-year-old Chinese citizens in 2010, the researchers uncovered four million people apparently unaccounted for — approximately 2.5 million women and 1.5 million men.

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

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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