Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gendercide or "Negative" Dowries?

The current cover of The Economist discusses the dramatic imbalance between male and female children born in various countries.  Freakonomics notes today that there is evidence of a reversal in Korea.

This looks like an incredibly fast method of shifting thousands of years of momentum in favor of women.  For not very good reasons, thousands of years of human civilization has treated women and girls as inferior goods.  (An inferior good is something you want less of when you are wealthier.  Think brisket, if you lacked childhood emotional attachment to the smell in your grandmother's kitchen...)

Economically speaking, dowries give the clearest example of such treatment: Here's some cash, please take my daughter. (Why would property have a negative price?  No free disposal?  Right, murder generally has been frowned upon, even of girls.  An inferior good being foisted off on someone who doesn't want it requires paying them to take it.)

Creating those highly valued sons requires a woman.  We're going to see reversals far grander than South Korea's.  I'll bet in 20 years the countries with the highest gender imbalances today have the largest "negative" dowries.  They'll have substantially higher real value to the transaction that takes a potentially productive asset off the market and into production, (my wife wears her's on her finger.)  And, the wage and wealth gaps of those young women relative to their male peers will narrow substantially versus their mothers and grandmothers.

No comments:

Post a Comment