Are Girls The New Boys

Ruth Shalit Barrett’s Elle piece on “gender disappointment” (parents who want to have boys but get girls or vice versa) relies pretty heavily on anecdotes and vague generalizations, but this is at least data-esque and somewhat surprising: “Seventy-one percent of American families who use MicroSort—which is still in clinical trials—want a daughter.” MicroSort being a company that at least claims to be able to help you choose a son or daughter deliberately.

If it’s true that society has developed an aggregate preference for girls that would, of course, be a change from the historic pro-boy bias of the peasant farmer. And as Mickey Kaus jokes “I see profitable arbitrage possibilities for Match.com’s Chinese web service.”

It’s not clear that this MicroSort technology even works, but it seems inevitable that improved understanding of human biology will give parents increasing ability to exercise choice in this regard without resorting to the crude and taboo method of selective abortion. Under the circumstances even a much milder social preference for either boys or girls could have pretty profound social consequences in terms of creating an aggregate gender imbalance. Optimistically, a predominantly female society should have substantially fewer people killed by violent crime and car accidents, and somewhat more enlightened public policy. At the same time, I’ve seen models in which a relatively modest oversupply of women (normally the scenario this is supposed to model is inner-city neighborhoods impacted by the mass incarceration of African-American men) leads to the collapse of norms of monogamy with deleterious consequences for the next generation of children.