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Sex Selection Before Birth

Does male preference persist after migration?
Copyright: JuanCi

Sex ratio at birth (SRB) indicates the ratio of males to females in a population, which under undisturbed conditions tend to be approximately 104 to 106 males per 100 females born. This indicator has risen in a few Asian countries since the 1980s, and it has remained abnormally higher than expected for almost 30 years. The cases of China (115.9 in 2014), Azerbaijan (115.6 in 2013), Vietnam (112.2 average for 2013/2014), India (110.0 average for 2011/2013) and Albania (109.0 average for 2012/2013) are a few examples. The high proportion of boys in these societies is mostly a consequence of practices of prenatal sex selection, due to couple’s preference for a male child.

In a new study, Elena Ambrosetti, Livia Elisa Ortensi, Cinzia Castagnaro and Marina Attili investigated whether this pattern changes once individuals emigrate to Italy: Are practices of sex selection still maintained? Based on data from the Italian Resident Population Register and regional data for the region of Lombardy (CEDAP dataset), the authors found that this seems to be the case only for specific groups.

Overall, from 2005 to 2015, the SRB for births from Italian couples was around 105.7 and 106.1 for the whole period, while the SRB for children born from foreign couples ranged from 106.1 to 107.1. SRB was found to be exceptionally high only among couples where both parents are either Indian, Chinese or Tunisian, and for births by Albanian couples after 2008. No imbalance was found for the population from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, despite the fact that male preference is strongly rooted in these countries. In order to prevent prenatal sex selection, the policy measure recommended by the authors is to ensure that the sex of the future child is not revealed at an early stage in the pregnancy.


Original Article: Ambrosetti, E., Ortensi, L., Castagnaro, C. and Attili, M. (2016). Sex imbalances at birth in migratory context: evidence from Italy. GENUS 71(2-3): 29-51.