Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gender-selective abortion among kyopo families?

While Marmot's Hole has news that Korean-American parents remain conservative on issues of exogamy (14% oppose it, 13% agree with it, and 69% said they oppose it, but would permit it), there is an article from the New York Times indicating that preference for sons remains prevalent among Korean-Americans and that some are likely using gender-selective abortion to achieve it:
The trend is buried deep in United States census data: seemingly minute deviations in the proportion of boys and girls born to Americans of Chinese, Indian and Korean descent.

In those families, if the first child was a girl, it was more likely that a second child would be a boy, according to recent studies of census data. If the first two children were girls, it was even more likely that a third child would be male.

Demographers say the statistical deviation among Asian-American families is significant, and they believe it reflects not only a preference for male children, but a growing tendency for these families to embrace sex-selection techniques, like in vitro fertilization and sperm sorting, or abortion.

New immigrants typically transplant some of their customs and culture to the United States — from tastes in food and child-rearing practices to their emphasis on education and the elevated social and economic status of males. The appeal to immigrants by clinics specializing in sex selection caused some controversy a decade ago.

But a number of experts expressed surprise to see evidence that the preference for sons among Asian-Americans has been so significantly carried over to this country. “That this is going on in the United States — people were blown away by this,” said Prof. Lena Edlund of Columbia University.
I'd also like to see the statistics the other way (i.e., the likelihood of a daughter if the first child was a son, etc.), to see how much of this is desire to fulfill a "full set" (i.e., at least one boy and at least one girl) and not specifically son preference. Not that I think that will explain all of it, but at least a bit of it, I think. 

Anyway, what's interesting is that the kyopo families, particularly first-generation immigrants, are exhibiting traditional values (e.g., son preference, opposition to exogamy, etc.) with such staying power. While these same values are eroding or disappearing altogether (I'm trying to find the Marmot's Hole link from 2005 or 2006 that showed a majority [?] of Korean parents would accept their child marrying a non-Korean), Korean-Americans (and Indian-Americans and Chinese-Americans) continue to do things the way they think they are done back in the Motherland. 

This phenomenon is not new to me. I've encountered this with zainichi Koreans (재일교포) in Japan, who were often far more conservative than either Koreans or Japanese, including through my future ex-fiancée, but that's a story for another time.


  1. very interesting article today.. =) so please PLEASE hurry and find the link on Marmot's hole...

    future ex-fiance?

    i'm intrigued, kushibo... (^_~)

  2. Koreans do prefer a "full set" to two boys but not to the extent of using sex selection techniques. If Koreans wanted daughters that badly, one would see among older families a youngest sister with at least two older brothers just as one sees a family with several daughters followed by a lone youngest son who is sometimes several years younger than his closest sibling, hinting at an abortion or two in between. There probably are a few "son-son-daughter" families out there, just not enough to show up on the radar screen like the more common "daughter-daughter-son" combination.

    As you probably know, Korea's gender disparity has all but disappeared. I wonder if Korean-Americans have been lumped in unfairly with Chinese-Americans and Indian-Americans, whose ancestral countries continue to show a lopsided birth ratio in favor of males. In particular Indian-Americans seem more conservative and homeland-oriented than either Korean or Chinese-Americans. It is not uncommon for first generation Indian immigrants to attempt to arrange for their children marriages to other Indians of the same ethnic origin, language, or religion. I don't think first generation Chinese or Korean immigrants strive as actively to keep their kids "in the tribe." This is just my perception based on my interactions with all three groups, especially Indian since the greater metro Detroit and Ann Arbor area is home to a large Indian community.

  3. Sonagi wrote:
    Koreans do prefer a "full set" to two boys but not to the extent of using sex selection techniques.

    I certainly don't think it's anywhere near as high as the other way around, but it is there. That's my one beef about sociology and demography (both of which I'm studying, of course): the accepted necessary evil of lumping individuals into easily categorizable groups.

    The story noted that abortion is not the only gender-selection means available, by the way.

  4. reijene wrote:
    future ex-fiance?

    i'm intrigued, kushibo... (^_~)

    It's a long story. And I meant future at that time. She's most definitely an ex-fiancée right now (and not because she's a current wife). ;)

    I haven't seen her in years.


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