Surprising Son Preference in the Caucasus

Son preference and sex-selective abortion in China and India have frequently been in the news but who would ever have thought of it in the Caucasus countries?

But it’s there, in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, three former Soviet Republics and the trends have been well analyzed in a recent paper.*

*Geraldine Duthe, France Mesle, Jaques Vallin (National Institute of Demographic Studies, Paris), Irina Badurashvili (Georgian Centre of Population Research, Tbilisi), and Karina Kuyumjyan (National Statistical Service of the Republic of Armenia, Yerevan), “Persistence of a High Sex Ratio at Birth in the Caucasus,” presented at the Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America, Washington, DC, April, 2011.

The normal global biological sex ratio at birth (SRB) is 105 male births per 100 female. Where son preference is strong and the sex of a fetus is determined, there has been a rise in the abortion of female fetuses in recent years.

TFR (average lifetime births per woman) 1.7 2.0 1.6
TAR (average lifetime abortions per woman) 1.7 2.3 3.1

The SRB in those countries began rising in the mid-1990s and, in 2009, stood at 114 in Armenia and 118 in Azerbaijan.

Birth reporting in Georgia has been somewhat erratic but the pattern is similar if not quite as skewed upwards.

Abortion had long been used as a form of birth control in the Soviet Union and the practice has continued in the Caucasus. A low fertility rate is often thought to create a particularly likely impetus for sex-selective abortion when son preference is strong.

In all three countries, the SRB for third births was well above the total SRB. In Armenia, the SRB for third births was about 140 in 2000-2004; in Azerbaijan, it was about 150; and, in Georgia, it was about 145. Of course, third births are much less frequent with low birth rates.

In recent years, the SRB does appear to have leveled off, but their SRB’s are now exceeded only by China’s.

Дата публикации: 2011-05-13 18:55:49