China's one-child policy combined with the preference for sons has skewed the population toward males. New research showing a strong correlation between that sex imbalance and savings rates offers some unexpected insights for financial services firms and others weighing investments in China.
The connection between the ratio of males to females and savings levels is simple. Male births have outnumbered female for years, which has resulted in intense competition for brides. It helps to have money, so parents of boys save up in order to improve sonny's chances in the marriage market.
In 1980, China had a more or less natural sex ratio at birth of 106 boys for every 100 girls; but by 2007, the ratio was 124 to 100. Competitive saving, as parents try to improve the marriage prospects of their sons, explains much of the increase in China's savings rate.
China's savings rate rose steeply over the 1990-2007 period, eventually reaching 50% of GDP. Moreover, it rose even as pension and health-care systems improved and the financial system became more efficient, so it isn't explained by economic insecurity.
Instead, it is closely correlated with the increasingly male skew of China's population. Other things being equal, areas with proportionally more boys than girls will have higher savings rates over time.
The correlation coefficient is strong--as much as 0.822. Other factors do influence savings, but sex ratio imbalance explains about half the increase in China's savings rate nationally.
在农村，这一关联性表现得比城市更为明显。我们可以从这个全新的角度审视有关新加坡淡马锡控股(Temasek Holdings Pte)提议出资约人民币200亿元（约合29亿美元）与中国银行联合发展农村金融业务的报导。虽然在IPO问题上几番折腾、但终将上市的中国农业银行也有可能成为另一个在中国男女比率失衡问题上的受益者。
The relationship is stronger in rural than in urban areas. That puts a new light on the reported initiative by Singapore's Temasek Holdings to invest RMB20 billion (2.9 billion) in rural banking in China, in cooperation with Bank of China. Agricultural Bank of China, whose on-again-off-again IPO will eventually come to market, could also be another beneficiary of boy-girl imbalance in China's population.
Demographic data indicate that China's boys will outnumber girls by even wider margins in years ahead, so the competitive pressure for parents to save will become even more intense.
From an investing standpoint, the regional variations could be significant. The gender balance is particularly lopsided in a cluster of provinces in the southeast, and much less so in the north, and in China's western provinces, which are not ethnically Han.
The imbalance will be much greater in provinces such as rural Anhui than in Jilin or Tibet, where the shortage of girls is much less severe. Other provinces with higher-than-average boy-girl ratios and above-average savings rates include Fujian, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Henan and Hainan, based on data from 2000 and 2005. A new census scheduled for November this year will provide new insights into possible savings trends over the next 10 to 20 years.
The NBER study data will also interest consumer products companies targeting the Chinese market. Where male births outnumber females 130 to 100, as they do in some regions now, that could throw off assumptions about the demand for many products.
2010-03-25 19:47 编辑：kuaileyingyu