The country with the highest gender disparity at birth isn't China

Castle in LiechtensteinWikimedia CommonsA castle in Liechtenstein.

China just announced that the country will be ending its infamous one-child policy. For more than 30 years, the rule has limited families in China to having, as the the name implies, just one child.

That’s helped to distort the gender ratio in China.

But with 115 males to every 100 females, China isn’t the country with the most distorted sex ratio at birth, according to the CIA World Factbook.

It’s Liechtenstein.

The small European country located to the west of Switzerland is only about 15 miles long.

The current population of Liechtenstein is approximately 37,624, according to 2015 data from the CIA. The sex ratio at birth is 126 males for every 100 females.

That’s the most distorted ratio in the world. For reference, the sex ratio at birth for the entire planet is 103 males for every 100 females born.

The disparity in Liechtenstein has been noted for at least a few years now. In 2013, highlighted the country’s seemingly strange gender ratio. “Perhaps this is a data collection error (in very small populations … the results can be skewed),” two sociologists noted at the time. also pointed out that two other countries, Curacao and Azerbaijan, also had bigger ratio disparities than China. But this has actually changed since 2013.

While Liechtenstein still has the most distorted sex ratio at birth, China now ranks second. And with a population that dwarfs Liechtenstein’s, the impact of that imbalance is far greater.

Skewed sex ratios at birth in Asian countries are often linked to sex-selective abortions, the CIA World Factbook notes: “Eventually, it could cause unrest among young adult males who are unable to find partners.” That could be one reason for China’s about-face on its one-child rule.

Abortion is currently illegal in Liechtenstein, meanwhile, where women only won the right vote — by a narrow margin — in 1984. While these are interesting data points, it’s difficult to guess exactly where the country’s skewed sex ratio at birth comes from: There are simply too few births there each year to know for sure.

Whatever the cause, the disparity at birth does not show up in the population at large — at least not yet. The sex ratio in the whole population of Liechtenstein (instead of just among newborns) is 99 males to 100 females. In China, it’s 106 to 100.

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