More Schools Mean Fewer Women

It's a truth universally acknowledged around the world that education is good. The higher a people's schooling, goes the mantra, the better its economic progress, political prospects and gender equality. Everywhere in the world, for example, education for women correlates with a drop in fertility. That's why the old centrally-planned "population control" programs of the 1960s gave way to efforts that emphasize schools for girls and economic opportunity for all women. In 2002, for example, even Zero Population Growth changed its name to "Population Connection,'' and today its website proclaims the 21st-century approach: "Sustainable population, minus the control. Empowering women will naturally restore balance.''

The benefits of education sound almost too good to be true. And, in fact, it seems they are: One thing that also rises with education levels worldwide is the propensity to abort female embryos or kill female babies. Where a typical human population generally has 103-106 boy babies born for every 100 girls, in parts of China and India, The Economist recently reported the male/female ratio has reached 120/100. And the intensity of this "war on baby girls" increases with an area's educational accomplishment: In China and India, the higher a province's literacy level, the more skewed is its sex ratio. Richard Sproat at Language Log, appalled by these statistics, collected numbers for the rest of the world, as he explains here. He found a strong correlation globally between literacy and a dearth of female births.


As Sproat says, it's unlikely all those schools are directly teaching people to get sonograms and abort girls. But education is a proxy for prosperity, greater access to information, and a desire to control one's circumstances. In many people's progressive fantasies, all that is associated with the shedding of benighted ideas. In reality, money, information and self-assertion are leading people to snuff out future girls.

They have perfectly rational reasons to do so at the individual level, where, for example, Chinese society favors males and more than 60 percent of the population has no chance to legally bear more than one child. But the effect on society is unquestionably destabilizing: Societies with a surplus of unattached young men tend to violence and turmoil. Three Chinese provinces now have male/female baby ratios of 130/100; fourteen others are at 120/100 or above. A new report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences says the imbalance is growing with education and economic expansion.

It seems education, like democracy, just gives people the tools to assert themselves. It doesn't make them good, or wise.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Space toilets: How astronauts boldly go where few have gone before

A NASA astronomer explains how astronauts dispose of their, uh, dark matter.

Videos
  • When nature calls in micro-gravity, astronauts must answer. Space agencies have developed suction-based toilets – with a camera built in to ensure all the waste is contained before "flushing".
  • Yes, there have been floaters in space. The early days of space exploration were a learning curve!
  • Amazingly, you don't need gravity to digest food. Peristalsis, the process by which your throat and intestines squeeze themselves, actually moves food and water through your digestive system without gravity at all.
Keep reading Show less

Steven Pinker's 13 rules for writing better

The Harvard psychologist loves reading authors' rules for writing. Here are his own.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 21: Steven Pinker speaks onstage during OZY Fest 2018 at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on July 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Ozy Media)
Personal Growth
  • Steven Pinker is many things: linguist, psychologist, optimist, Harvard professor, and author.
  • When it comes to writing, he's a student and a teacher.
  • Here's are his 13 rules for writing better, more simply, and more clearly.
Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less