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Liechtenstein Has the Most Skewed Ratio of Baby Boys and Girls in the World Right Now

China has been the focus of much of the attention surrounding sex selection at birth, but recent numbers have shown that it’s not a problem unique to Asia

(David Herholz)

In far too many parts of the world, parents make sure that their girl children are never born or, if they are, don’t survive long: The Population Reference Bureau estimates that every year 1.5 million girls “are missing at birth.” This practice is most common when the first child is a girl, as boy children are given more value both economically and socially. In recent years, China has been the focus of much of the attention surrounding sex selection at birth, but recent numbers have shown that it’s not a problem unique to Asia.

The CIA’s 2013 World Fact Book keeps data on sex ratios around the world. A normal, non-suspicious number hangs around 1.04 to 1.06—slightly in favor of boys. The Fact Book explains that “high sex ratios at birth in some Asian countries are now attributed to sex-selective abortion and infanticide due to a strong preference for sons.” But it’s not an Asian country that tops their list this year:

(The Society Pages)

At The Society Pages, Jennifer Hickes Jundquist and Eiko Strader pointed out that the 2013 statistics are interesting for a couple of reasons:

The reason we find this newest 2013 data of particular interest is that, despite the popular Western focus on Asia, the practice occurs in more European countries. Perhaps most striking is the central European country that ranks at the top of the list—Liechtenstein. This strikes us as odd, given that Liechtenstein has never made this list in the past. Perhaps this is a data collection error (in very small populations, as also in Curacao, the results can be skewed). But we are surprised that no journalists have picked up on the fact that the worst offending son-preference country in the world is now, allegedly, a European country. We contacted the CIA to ask them about this possible data anomaly but have not yet heard back.

It is worth noting that Lichtenstein has one of the most restrictive laws against abortion in Europe. So while the spotlight is always on Asia when it comes to sex selective abortions, perhaps it’s time to broaden that spotlight and look at Europe, too.

Of course, it’s not just these countries that prefer boys over girls either. In America, while people aren’t aborting their female children, parents do report a preference to boys. When asked if they could only have one child, more parents want a boy. In fact, the answer to that question has barely changed in America since 1941.

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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