China's one-child policy has left the nation with 32 million more boys than girls under the age of 20, a new study says. The greatest imbalance is among kids ages 1 to 4, which likely means bigger problems down the road, the New York Times reports. Researchers said China could curb the trend by banning sex-selective abortions, but "nothing can be done now to prevent" the current disparity.
The trend escalated after 1986, when Chinese couples gained access to ultrasounds and abortions. By 2005, boy births were outnumbering girls' by 1.1 million, a rate of 120 boys for every 100 girls. The rate rose as high as 143 boys per 100 girls in rural provinces where some couples were allowed to have a second child. “Sex-selective abortion accounts for almost all the excess males,” the study said.