Bare-sticks and rebellion: The drivers and implications of China's reemerging sex imbalance

Britt L. Crow

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Scopus citations


    At several points throughout the history of Chinese civilization there has been a sizable sex ratio imbalance in which males vastly outnumber females. This surplus of males has been constituted primarily by poor, unmarried men known as " bare-sticks" (guanggun). Driven by a socio-cultural preference for sons and facilitated by sex-specific infanticide and infant neglect, the growth of the bare-sticks population in imperial China had serious implications for rural rebellion. The bare-stick population served as a major constituency for violent revolt in a number of major uprisings, many of which were directly related to securing fundamental natural resources and the survival of subsistence communities. After a hiatus during the Maoist period, China's bare-sticks are making a forceful comeback due to a variety of factors including the endurance of the traditional son preference, restrictive fertility policies, a dearth of retirement options for the country's increasingly large elderly population, and the introduction of prenatal sex-determining technologies like the ultrasound. Most importantly, as modern China continues down the path of rapid economic growth that has blighted natural resource quality for the last 30 years, the social implications of the re-emergence of the bare-sticks are magnified.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)72-80
    Number of pages9
    JournalTechnology in Society
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - May 2010


    • China
    • Environment
    • Rebellion
    • Sex ratio imbalance
    • Ultrasound

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Human Factors and Ergonomics
    • Business and International Management
    • Education
    • Sociology and Political Science


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