Book - MIT Press

Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population

  • Valerie M. Hudson
  • Andrea Den Boer


"Bare Branches is an excellent book that represents a new approach to thinking about political stability and international politics. Hudson and den Boer draw from the life sciences to reveal historical patterns that other scholars have missed. They present comprehensive data on sex ratios and fascinating historical studies of social instability brought on by excess young males."

--Francis Fukuyama, Dean of Faculty and Bernard Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy, The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

"Bare Branches is a tour de force. It represents a groundbreaking contribution to the literature on gender and security studies. Hudson and den Boer call attention to the ticking time bomb of sex ratio imbalances, especially in East and South Asia, and its impact on the likelihood of domestic instability and inter-state war. All who address these issues in the future will need to contend seriously with the persuasive arguments made in this book."

--Rose McDermott, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Bare Branches reveals a largely overlooked but important variable correlated with war and peace: high ratios of males to females. Through both historical and contemporary analyses, Hudson and den Boer show that in societies where women have low status, peaceful democracies are far less likely to take hold. All those who hope to understand the causes of war--in academe as well as in government--will have to be aware of these findings. A brilliant contribution to the literature on contemporary world affairs."

--Jessica Stern, Lecturer in Public Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Read the April 30, 2004, Chronicle of Higher Education article

Read the May 13, 2004, International Herald Tribune article

Read the July 4, 2004, Washington Post op-ed

Read the July 13, 2004, Wall Street Journal review

Read the July 15, 2004, Christian Science Monitor commentary

Read the July 19, 2004, Original Report

Read the July 19, 2004, event summary of the Bare Branches book launch at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Read the July 28, 2004, BBC News story

Read the July 30, 2004, Straits Times article

Read the August 9, 2004, U.S. News & World Report article

Read the September 3, 2004, Christian Science Monitor article

Read the September 6, 2004, EDC News review

Read the September 16, 2004, op-ed

Read the October 6, 2004, ReasonOnline column

Read the September–November 2004 Peace News review

What happens to a society that has too many men? In this provocative book, Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer argue that, historically, high male-to-female ratios often trigger domestic and international violence. Most violent crime is committed by young unmarried males who lack stable social bonds. Although there is not always a direct cause-and-effect relationship, these surplus men often play a crucial role in making violence prevalent within society. Governments sometimes respond to this problem by enlisting young surplus males in military campaigns and high-risk public works projects. Countries with high male-to-female ratios also tend to develop authoritarian political systems.

Hudson and den Boer suggest that the sex ratios of many Asian countries, particularly China and India -- which represent almost 40 percent of the world's population -- are being skewed in favor of males on a scale that may be unprecedented in human history. Through offspring sex selection (often in the form of sex-selective abortion and female infanticide), these countries are acquiring a disproportionate number of low-status young adult males, called "bare branches" by the Chinese.

Hudson and den Boer argue that this surplus male population in Asia's largest countries threatens domestic stability and international security. The prospects for peace and democracy are dimmed by the growth of bare branches in China and India, and, they maintain, the sex ratios of these countries will have global implications in the twenty-first century.

Valerie M. Hudson is Professor of Political Science and faculty affiliate at the David M. Kennedy School for International and Area Studies at Brigham Young University.

Andrea M. den Boer is a Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent at Canterbury.

About This Book

Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population
Valerie M. Hudson Andrea Den Boer
For more information on this publication: Please contact International Security
For Academic Citation: Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer. Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, .

The Authors