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Imbalances in sex ratio in Western Europe

Imbalances in sex ratio of births are not confined to South-East Asia or to the Indian sub-continent. Nor their long-term consequences. The average sex ratio at birth is around 105, i.e. 105 male live births per 100 female. Significant distortions have been illustrated since the 1980s and the introduction of ultrasound technology. It leads to sex selective abortions. Recent researches show evidence of an increase in the sex ratio of births among immigrant communities in Western Europe.

These scientific works depend on available statistics surveys and their national particularities. For instance, we still do not have figures on ethnical origins in France, whereas United Kingdom, Italy, Greece and Norway have. On the second hand, these studies give us information only about first generation migrants. There are no figures about further developments on the possible decrease of the sex ratio of births for second or higher generations.

The sex ratio of births, defined as the number of male live births per 100 female births, seems to be significantly different from certain immigrant communities compared to national figures. This is the case among Indians in the UK, Norway (only between 1987 and 2005) and Italy, also among Chinese mothers in Italy (114) or Albanian both in Italy (125) and Greece. Dubuc and Coleman estimate that there are 1,480 missing women among Indian community in the UK. We could go further by studying this sex ratio of birth according to order of the birth. It increases for the third or later child. For example, it reaches 112.5 in the 1990s in the UK, 114.4 in the period 2000-2005 among Indian-born women. It follows well-known studies of imbalances in sex ratio in South-East Asia and the Indian sub-continent. However European figures are lower than in mothers’ native countries: India, China, and Albania.

What are the consequences of imbalances in sex ratio of births? “There are largely speculative.”* And I will not give risky hypotheses.

We could rather notice recent trends in Norway: the sex ratio of births decreases among third or higher order births since 2005. So there are no more imbalances. However, it is not an evidence of the end of son preference among Indian-born women, just the end of sex-selective abortion. Indeed, mothers of 2 girls or more are likely to continue childbearing.

Chosen references:
AMBROSETTI Elena, ORTENSI Livia Elisa, CASTAGNARO Cinzia and ATTILI Marina, (2014), “Sex imbalances at birth in migratory context in Western Europe: evidence from Italy”, pour Population Association of America 2014 Annual Meeting
DUBUC Sylvie and COLEMAN David, (2007), “An Increase in the Sex Ratio of Births to Indian-born Mothers in England and Wales: Evidence for Sex-Selective Abortion”, p 383-400, dans Population and development review, Vol 33 n° 2
ESPON, (2013), “Gender imbalances in European Regions”, dans Map of the Month
GUILMOTO Christophe Z. and DUTHE Géraldine, (2013), “Masculinization of births in Eastern Europe, dans Population & Societies, n° 506
* HESKETH Therese and XING Zhu Wei, (2006), “Abnormal sex ratios in human populations: Causes and consequences”, p 13271-13275, dans Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol 103 n° 36
TØNNESSEN Marianne, AALANDSLID Vebjørn and SKJERPEN Terje, (2013), “Changing trend? Sex ratios of children born to Indian immigrants in Norway revisited”, dans BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth, n° 170