November 30, 2016 2:10 pm
Updated: November 30, 2016 3:33 pm

Researchers claim they may have ‘found’ China’s 30 million ‘missing’ girls

WATCH: China's 'missing girls' theory likely far overblown, study suggests.

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Academics often say China’s repressive one-child policy has led to reports that 30-60 million girls are missing, reportedly through sex-selective abortions or because they were killed after birth.

But a new study from the University of Kansas and Shaanxi Normal University in China suggests that those millions of girls are not actually missing but are simply just not registered.

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READ MORE: China to abolish 1-child policy, allow 2 children

“People think 30 million girls are missing from the population. That’s the population of California, and they think they’re just gone,” John Kennedy, a University of Kansas associate professor of political science, said.

Kennedy and co-author Shi Yaojiang analyzed statistics and found that a combination of late registration and unreported births explain a larger portion of the “missing girls” than previously reported in Chinese sex-ratio-at-birth statistics.

The findings published in the Journal China Quarterly suggest people in smaller and rural communities were often looking out for each other and were not fully enforcing the one-child policy.

“Instead they made tacit agreements in allowing families to have extra children in exchange for social stability in their communities,” the study reads.

READ MORE: Baby boom not expected in China after easing 1-child policy

Kennedy told Global News he started his research 20 years ago when he was living in a small village in the northern Shaanxi province.

“We observed families with three or four kids. And the kids told us explicitly that they were not registered,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said after seeing this first hand and having parents in the small community often refer to their daughters as the “non-existent one,” he was curious to know if this was more widespread.

Kennedy and his colleagues started looking at national statistics. They compared the number of children born in 1990 with the number of 20-year-old Chinese men and women in 2010 and discovered there was a huge population that wasn’t accounted for.

So the so called gender-imbalance, with men outnumbering women, may not be as pronounced as previous scholars suggest, Kennedy said.

“If 30 million women are truly missing, then there’s going to be more males than females of marriageable age as they start looking for wives,” Kennedy said. “There is nothing more socially unstable than a bunch of testosterone with nowhere to go.”

Asked whether the Chinese census data used in their analysis was reliable, Kennedy said it’s the same data all researchers have used in the last couple of decades.

“The study did not have to go through any officials before it was published. It didn’t go through any censoring,” Kennedy told Global news.

“So the government isn’t really influencing our research but we hope the research may influence the government.”

READ MORE: Chinese director Zhang Yimou fined $1.2M for having 3 kids

As of now, Kennedy says some of those girls who we thought were missing do not have registration cards and are at risk. “They can’t stay at hotels, they can’t buy train tickets, and it’s hard to get an official job.”

Last year, China started allowing all married couples to have two children, abolishing the one-child policy. Kennedy says this is a step in the right direction.

“The Chinese government has also been moving to make sure everybody over the age of 18 gets a registration card, whether you have a birth certificate or not. And that we think is a very important step to protecting people who are not registered.”

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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