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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Some low ceilings glassier than others

We doubted the BBC’s grasp of probability when we saw:

Starting in 1980, the Chinese government limited each family to one child to try to avert a population explosion. But popular discontent in rural areas led to a policy change in 1984, according to population expert Zhai Zhenwu from People’s University in Beijing.

‘In most of the countryside in China we have what we call one-and-a-half-child policy. That means if a young couple’s first child is a male, they must stop child-bearing. If the child is a female they may have a second child,’ he said.

That – and premature female infant deaths – has led to a glut of baby boys. And Hainan island has the highest boy-to-girl ratio in the whole country, with 135 boys born for every 100 girls.

Every actuary knows that the natural proportions of the sexes are independent of any government-imposed decision rule. The BBC itself judged that the tragically much higher mortality rates for girls were likely to be the main influence on the unbalanced ratio.