Proverbs 17:17 says, “a brother is born for adversity”, but new research suggests that he won’t be born in adversity. Shige Song, a demographer and sociologist at Queens College of the City University of New York published a study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B which found that during a great famine the ratio of boys being born took a sharp drop.
Studies have shown that some animals alter the sex of their offspring during times of famine but, it has been hard to document that in humans. Song studied birth records of 300,000 Chinese women dating from 1929 to 1982. During the period dating from 1958 to 1961, Mao Zedong, political leader in China, unveiled the “Great Leap Forward” campaign. It was meant to be a means to bringing China from an agrarian society to an industrial society. It was an abysmal failure and created a famine that killed many Chinese people. About a year after the Great Leap Forward began the ratio of boys being born compared to girls took a sharp dive. In 1960 there were 109 boys being born for every 100 girls. By 1963 there were only 104 boys being born for every 100 girls. As famine conditions eased up so did the ratio of boys increase.
Song told Live Science that “investment on male children is a high-risk, high-return game, so you want to do it only if you are in very good situation”. Song compared the situation to non-dominant male lions living in a pride. In this scenario it is not likely that non-dominant lions would be able to pass on their genes even once in their lifetimes. From an evolutionary standpoint, this lion was a bit of waste. “In good conditions, invest in sons; in poor conditions, invest in daughters,” he said. “The evolutionary argument goes that anybody who can do this survives, anybody who cannot, they go away”, Song stated.
There are still some considerations that need to made before this theory is widely accepted. Some skeptics point that famine conditions might not be the only factor to consider here. There were a lot of physical and psychological stressors that may need to be considered as well.