This Slate article about American Asians and gender selection is interesting as a counterpoint to the "technology will solve everything" meme that permeates our culture.

Now comes further evidence of this effect. Two days ago, economists Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund published an article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examining the ratio of male to female births in "U.S.-born children of Chinese, Korean, and Asian Indian parents." Among whites, the boy-girl ratio was essentially constant, regardless of the number of kids in a family or how many of them were girls. In the Asian-American sample, the boy-girl ratio started out at the same norm: 1.05 to 1. But among families whose first child was a girl, the boy-girl ratio among second kids went up to 1.17 to 1. And if the first two kids were girls, the boy-girl ratio among third kids went up to 1.5 to 1. This 50 percent increase in male probability is directly contrary to the trend among whites, who tend to produce a child of the same sex as the previous child.*

There's no plausible innocent explanation for this enormous and directionally abnormal shift in probability. The authors conclude that the numbers are "evidence of sex selection, most likely at the prenatal stage."

So some Asians in America -- or Americans of Asian descent -- are almost certainly using abortion to ensure that they get a boy. This process is enabled by technology: not only does technology make it possible, but advancing technology makes gender determination and selective abortions more private, which bypasses any opprobrium such an abortion might otherwise provoke.

I've written before that gender selection poses a philosophical problem for libertarians and an existential problem for the primarily Asian cultures that practice it. It's hard for me to see how technology will "solve" this quandary absent a culturally dominant moral worldview.

Peripherally, the sentence I starred above doesn't sound right to me. According to this article about an article about the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, the gender of later children is only very slightly affected by the genders of earlier children, if at all. Did the author of this Slate article, William Saletan, pull the starred statistic out of thin air, or is there other research on this topic I haven't been able to find with Google? Sounds like an old wives' tale to me.

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