China’s Bachelor Society

Nicholas Hune-Brown looks ahead to its consequences:

China’s unbalanced sex ratio has existed for years. Now, though, as that generation’s first group of men reach marrying age, we’re about to see the results. A recent study by Catherine Tucker and Jennifer Van Hook in Population and Development Review attempts to assess the seriousness of the problem. Gender imbalance at birth, after all, isn’t identical to imbalance at marriage. Men tend to have a higher mortality rate, and there’s usually an age gap between husbands and wives.

Examining the figures, however, Tucker and Van Hook come up with some scary predictions.

By 2030, they estimate, a full 25 percent of the male population will be single—a bachelor society of 30 million men. And even if sex-selective abortions stop tomorrow and the male-female ratios level out, it will take until 2050 for the percentage of single men to drop below 10 percent. What that kind of world looks like is hard to imagine. The authors muse about an increase in commercial sex, a rise in HIV/AIDS, widespread poverty, higher levels of criminality and violence. Certainly the loneliness and depression that marked the lives of many of the men living in North America’s bachelor societies will be reproduced on a vast, national scale.