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Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population [Hardcover]

Valerie M. Hudson , Andrea M. den Boer
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 7 2004 Belfer Center Studies in International Security

What happens to a society that has too many men? In this provocative book, Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer argue that, historically, high male-to-female ratios often trigger domestic and international violence. Most violent crime is committed by young unmarried males who lack stable social bonds. Although there is not always a direct cause-and-effect relationship, these surplus men often play a crucial role in making violence prevalent within society. Governments sometimes respond to this problem by enlisting young surplus males in military campaigns and high-risk public works projects. Countries with high male-to-female ratios also tend to develop authoritarian political systems.Hudson and den Boer suggest that the sex ratios of many Asian countries, particularly China and India -- which represent almost 40 percent of the world's population -- are being skewed in favor of males on a scale that may be unprecedented in human history. Through offspring sex selection (often in the form of sex-selective abortion and female infanticide), these countries are acquiring a disproportionate number of low-status young adult males, called "bare branches" by the Chinese.Hudson and den Boer argue that this surplus male population in Asia's largest countries threatens domestic stability and international security. The prospects for peace and democracy are dimmed by the growth of bare branches in China and India, and, they maintain, the sex ratios of these countries will have global implications in the twenty-first century.


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Review

"...[A] well-documented study..." Susan H. Greenberg MSNBC



"...an impressive and comprehensive account of sex ratios..." James Q. Wilson The Wall Street Journal



"...Bare Branches has become a flashpoint for a debate about the link between sex ratios and security." Felicia R. Lee New York Times



"...connects the dots of a huge demographic trend that carries international implications." The Christian Science Monitor



"Exciting, innovative, refreshing...marks an important contribution at the nexus of the already burgeoning literatures addressingenvironmental and human security." Brendan Taylor Survival



" Bare Branches is a tour de force. It represents a groundbreaking contribution to the literature on gender and security studies. Hudson and den Boer call attention to the ticking time bomb of sex ratio imbalances, especially in East and South Asia, and its impact on the likelihood of domestic instability and inter-state war. All who address these issues in the future will need to contend seriously with the persuasive arguments made in this book." Rose McDermott, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara



" Bare Branches is an excellent book that represents a new approach to thinking about political stability and international politics. Hudson and den Boer draw from the life sciences to reveal historical patterns that other scholars have missed. They present comprehensive data on sex ratios and fascinating historical studies of social instability brought on by excess young males." Francis Fukuyama, Dean of Faculty and Bernard Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy, The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University



" Bare Branches reveals a largely overlooked but important variable correlated with war and peace: high ratios of males to females. Through both historical and contemporary analyses, Hudson and den Boer show that in societies where women have low status, peaceful democracies are far less likely to take hold. All those who hope to understand the causes of war—in academe as well as in government—will have to be aware of these findings. A brilliant contribution to the literature on contemporary world affairs." Jessica Stern, Lecturer in Public Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University



"*Bare Branches* is a tour de force. It represents a groundbreaking contribution to the literature on gender and security studies. Hudson and den Boer call attention to the ticking time bomb of sex ratio imbalances, especially in East and South Asia, and its impact on the likelihood of domestic instability and inter-state war. All who address these issues in the future will need to contend seriously with the persuasive arguments made in this book."--Rose McDermott, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara



"*Bare Branches* reveals a largely overlooked but important variable correlated with war and peace: high ratios of males to females. Through both historical and contemporary analyses, Hudson and den Boer show that in societies where women have low status, peaceful democracies are far less likely to take hold. All those who hope to understand the causes of war -- in academe as well as in government -- will have to be aware of these findings. A brilliant contribution to the literature on contemporary world affairs."--Jessica Stern, Lecturer in Public Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

About the Author

Valerie M. Hudson is Professor of Political Science and faculty affiliate at the David M. Kennedy School for International and Area Studies at Brigham Young University. She is the author of the books Culture and Foreign Policy and Artificial Intelligence and International Politics and coeditor of The Limits of State Autonomy: Societal Groups and Foreign Policy Formulation and Political Psychology and Foreign Policy.

Andrea M. den Boer is a a Research Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent at Canterbury.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Biologists, sociologists, and anthropologists have long assumed that scarcity, whether natural or man-made, is the chief catalyst for both social competition and social conflict. Read the first page
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating topic, thorough research June 25 2004
Format:Hardcover
After reading the article about this book in the Chronicle of Higher Education, I purchased it out of pure curiosity, admittedly prepared to reject the idea that the surplus male population in Asia could pose a threat to international security. However, I was astounded by the authors' very convincing and thorougly researched findings, which highlighted what I never imagined was such a strong linkage between international security and gender selection in Asia. Not exactly "beach reading," but most definitely suitable for university teaching and a good read for anyone interested in gender selection or security issues.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Significant Contribution to Security Literature July 6 2004
Format:Hardcover
This recent MIT Press book makes a significant contribution to national security literature and, at the same time, takes it in a new and exciting direction. Order-of-battle analysts would do well to add sex-ratios to the list of variables on which they collect information. Not every reader will be convinced by the argument of this book, but most will find it stimulating, thought-provoking, and very well-written. I hope it escapes the classification as solely a gender studies book. It is much more than that and deserves the attention of scholars, foreign policy experts, and national-security gurus.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Significant Contribution to Security Literature July 6 2004
By Stan A. Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This recent MIT Press book makes a significant contribution to national security literature and, at the same time, takes it in a new and exciting direction. Order-of-battle analysts would do well to add sex-ratios to the list of variables on which they collect information. Not every reader will be convinced by the argument of this book, but most will find it stimulating, thought-provoking, and very well-written. I hope it escapes the classification as solely a gender studies book. It is much more than that and deserves the attention of scholars, foreign policy experts, and national-security gurus.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating topic, thorough research June 25 2004
By Nora Dedrick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
After reading the article about this book in the Chronicle of Higher Education, I purchased it out of pure curiosity, admittedly prepared to reject the idea that the surplus male population in Asia could pose a threat to international security. However, I was astounded by the authors' very convincing and thorougly researched findings, which highlighted what I never imagined was such a strong linkage between international security and gender selection in Asia. Not exactly "beach reading," but most definitely suitable for university teaching and a good read for anyone interested in gender selection or security issues.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars COMING CONSEQUENCES OF FEMALE INFANTICIDE Jan. 26 2005
By A. Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Female infanticide is hardly new. The authors note that of 600 families in ancient Delphi only 1 percent raised more than one daughter. But what are the consequences? Violent, criminal men and a lowered status for women have been the historical consequences. Wars are another. This is not good news considering the high rate of female infanticide in China and India. Interesting book, lots of historical facts to back up the theories.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great information. What shall we do with it? Sept. 4 2006
By Phil Wong - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In their academic work, Bare Branches, Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer describe the causes of the high sex ratio in China and India, observed effects and future implications. They also suggest policy options and evaluate their merits.

Sex ratio is the ratio of men to women. The average sex ratio worldwide is 105 (105 men for every 100 women). China and India have higher than average sex ratios that have lead to a large surplus of males on the order of millions in both societies.

The high sex ratio in China is driven by a long history of preference for sons over daughters to preserve the family name, provide agricultural labor and care for parents in their old age. The preference for sons is intensified by the one child policy that limits the number of children to one per family.

These cultural forces have resulted to sex selective abortions, infanticide and infant abandonment. Further they have resulted in bare branches - unmarried males with a propensity for substance abuse, gambling and violent crime. Typically these males are unemployed or underemployed, did not graduate from high school and lack a permanent residence. They tend to congregate in migrant bachelor subcultures.

Future implications are frightening. One possibility is a government unable to control large and violent bachelor subcultures. Another possibility is an increased recruitment into the military or police force - with attendant propensities for violence that may be directed internally or towards neighboring countries.

In this reviewer's opinion, of the several policies that could help the gender imbalance, these seem to have the highest probability of success.

· the repeal of the one child policy

· government care of abandoned girls to adulthood

· government safety nets for the elderly to decrease financial reliance on sons

· policies that elevate the value of women

There seems to be a weakness however, in the ability of "policy" to affect "values". Policy usually translates into propaganda. And propaganda has had limited success in changing thousands of years of cultural values.

Hundreds of thousands of infants are abandoned annually in China. The majority of these infants are girls. In 1997, the total number of Chinese infants adopted by American citizen was 3314. Clearly, adoption by foreign nationals is not a complete solution to the problem. What else can we do to influence the situation without offending the great nation of China? If you have ideas, please let me know.

I thank Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer for and for giving us an understanding of the importance of gender issues in China and India.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scary Implication of Depopulation Feb. 11 2005
By idahogerald - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
There are millions of missing women in India and China--girl babies aborted or killed. What are the policy implications for a lopsided surplus of men for a country? "Bare Branches" explores this problem. Historically, the problem meant high crime and wars, and, oddly, a dramatic drop in freedom and value for women. An intesting book, should be widely read.
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