Project

China’s Bachelors: When Men Outnumber Women

China’s deeply skewed sex ratio is expected to lead to a population of lifelong bachelors roughly the size of Texas by 2020. With fewer chances at parenthood under the one-child policy, the ancient preference for boys has led families to selectively abort their girls following the introduction of ultrasound technology. In China, 120 boys are born for every 100 girls. In some regions, the imbalance is as stark as 150 to 100. Some of these small rural hamlets have been nicknamed “bachelor villages” for their populations of aging single men.

With support from the Pulitzer Center, Deborah Jian Lee and Sushma Subramanian travel to China to explore the ramifications of the gender imbalance in the world’s most populous country. They report on the men in poor villages who can’t keep up in this competitive marriage market and whose prospects for finding a wife grow increasingly dim with each passing year. They investigate the gender imbalance’s impact on women – from bachelorettes who benefit from a glut of suitors to women who are sold by their families, or trafficked from poorer regions, to marry the leftover single men.

Experts predict that China’s marriage squeeze could radically alter Chinese society. Some researchers have said China’s ballooning savings rate, unparalleled in the world, could be a result of families’ pressure to accumulate cash to attract wives for their sons. Eventually, this trend could create a new marriage economy, encouraging lower-class parents to select for daughters to marry into wealthy families. Others forecast social unrest caused by the sexual frustration of a growing group of wifeless men. With an even starker gender imbalance looming for the next generation, the gender disparity, and its consequences, will only swell.

A Single Man: One Chinese Bachelor's Search for Love

Modern China is a difficult place to be a bachelor. With a declining birth rate and a growing gender imbalance, China's men are entering a sparse dating landscape with limited opportunities for marriage.

China: Visiting a "Bachelor Village"

Marriage in China is a status symbol. Men living in the remote village of Gao Po lack economic security, which places them at the "bottom of society" and limits their chances of getting married.

China: Black Market Babies

The Chinese media recently reported that children were being stolen from families and sold to orphanages. Lee and Subramanian tell the story of two parents grappling with this reality.