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I have different unique cities with their own special features. For example: one city has farms and raises animals (Cattle, chickens, etc...) and therefore has the ability to talk and understand them. The people who live next to the sea can breath under it. And so on...

Can I have a city that can controls their children's sex, where couples can decide if they want a boy or a girl?

I have 2 questions :

  • Would it lead them to Extinction? Maybe a huge war starts and most of the people decide to have boys so they can fight... if 80% of the population are male, the birthrate will decrease a lot (fewer females to carry children), and city will shrink. Or, for example, a city discovers a gold mine; their society uses only males for mining, so most couples will end up selecting boys to generate gold.

  • What benefits would such a feature provide the city? I mean, in what ways will it differ from other societies? Will being able to select sexes for their children give such a city advantages over other normal cities?

These are the constraints on their society:

  • You cannot set a rule enforcing sex selection (For example: "Each couple must have at least 1 girl.")

  • Intermarriage between cities are discouraged because intermarriage causes cities to lose power and prestige.

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  • $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of how would gender roles be affected by a society where parents could control the sex of their child $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jan 24 '17 at 16:16
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    $\begingroup$ Not necessarily on-topic, but a woman is just as good a fighter as a man; especially in the further you progress along in history. So assuming that your world is not magical medieval, but rather something akin to The Hunger Games, there is no reason for people to only breed men for fighting. $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jan 24 '17 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ Credit where credit is due... most of the edits here were done by @ZoeyBoles. Great job cleaning up the grammar and readability. I just fixed a couple bits when approving the edit. $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 24 '17 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ One specific edit I want to highlight: I replaced "gender" with "sex" as those two terms do not mean the same thing. This question is asking about anatomy differences, so "sex" is the correct term. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_and_gender_distinction $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 24 '17 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ "Intermarriage causes cities to lose power and prestige": as a counterexample, bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria nube (let others make war, you happy Austria, marry [your daughters]). Ruling families, noble families, and merchant families have always sought alliances by marrying off their daughters to other ruling families, noble families and merchant families. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 24 '17 at 19:12
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It would not cause extinction for at least two reasons that I can see, one of which applies to this question:

  • as soon as the problem develops, if it could (here, you say it can't) the government would probably do something - for example force any second child to be the opposite sex of the first, or issue mandated-sex warrants... starting with the less politically empowered, probably.
  • sooner or later, having a child of the minority sex would result in some kind of advantage. If all the children of the ruling class are male, having a female child and marrying her off ensured your grandchildren's future.

The case where the government can't stave off the impending crisis (you say that intermarriage implies a loss of prestige and power; but what about, say, wartime bride-raiding? Sex-related tensions might degenerate into a war) leaves us with only the marriage-bound prospective value of a child of the less desirable sex, against its, well, lower desirability.

If the whole population is totally and completely set against the "lesser sex", and no amount of enticement can incentive a lesser-sex birth, and of course the sex choice method is reliable... then we might well be looking at an extinction situation.

All that is needed is that the reproductive pool shrinks below sustainability. This is harder to do if the "lesser sex" is the one not involved in pregnancy and nurture (since a smaller number of fertilizers can keep up with a much larger population of nurturers. With humans, a male can father thousands of children, while a woman can have less than one hundred), but it can be done.

On Earth, no such case ever presented; no combination of cultural bias strength and sex-choice method reliability and affordability has ever been so strong as to do more than skew the sex ratio.

Even if it had happened, the equation is also geographically dependent and any culture breeding itself into sterility would have been quickly overridden and overthrown by external populations.

But if the faze caught a whole population for long enough that nurturers of child-bearing age fell below a sustainability threshold, and nobody had the cold-bloodedness to seize that shrinking pool and start what would amount to a forced breeding program and keep it up for possibly several generations, then yes, I believe you could achieve extinction.

Something along those lines (well, not so much sex choice as family size and lifestyle choice) happens in Reap the Dark Tide by Cyril M. Kornbluth.

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    $\begingroup$ @SRM: Yes, it's just market economics 101 :-) $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jan 24 '17 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ First rule wont work because as i mentioned i cannot set a rule $\endgroup$ – Moudiz Jan 24 '17 at 18:43
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    $\begingroup$ Moudiz: I wondered about that. @LSemi I suggest you edit your answer to remove the first bullet point... it's off topic per the restraints of the question. Even if the question didn't restrict that, it's also overstated as "would" as opposed to "could depending upon government structures". :-) $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 24 '17 at 20:01
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    $\begingroup$ @SRM, I have edited the question and marked the first bullet. I still feel that it's unrealistic - at least it needs as strong a justification as required by, well, the risk of extinction or of a bride-raiding war - to posit that the government can't and won't do anything. That would require a race bent on suicide, and that's a trait that it's likely to have been bred out of all populations everywhere, if you'll pardon my pun :-) $\endgroup$ – LSerni Jan 24 '17 at 20:38
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This is essentially the One Child Policy enacted in China. It would not cause the extinction of the species/race/people, but it would have a significant impact on the sex ratio. Being able to choose the sex before birth would simply mean that parents wouldn't have to abort or kill the non-desired gender. To see the results of the impending gender imbalance, read this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_sex_ratio#Gender_imbalance

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  • $\begingroup$ The reason gender ratios in China are so skewed to males is not because of the one child policy per se, it's because, culturally, in china when women get married they become part of the groom's family and have to tend to them. That means that if a family has a girl they have to spend money to raise her just so that another family can 'get' her. What the one-child policy does is simply force the family to choose which gender they'd want their child to have. $\endgroup$ – Miguel Bartelsman Jan 24 '17 at 16:23
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  • $\begingroup$ Yep, it's basically the combined factors of son-preference and the one-child policy. In a culture with a more balanced preference for child genders, it's unlikely that having the ability to choose the gender of kids will result in such an unbalance. $\endgroup$ – Miguel Bartelsman Jan 24 '17 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Ryan Well, that was the point of the policy when it was implemented, but that's outside the scope of the question itself as this scenario doesn't limit the amount of children, it merely gives people the ability to choose their kids' genders. $\endgroup$ – Miguel Bartelsman Jan 24 '17 at 16:59
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    $\begingroup$ The combination of one child policy with the reality of abortions in China, amounts to the same thing as gender selection. The two allow a parent to choose the child's gender, and any time that parents have that ability, they are going to choose what is more convenient/profitable/advantageous for them in their culture. Whether the choice is made by aborting children of the gender you don't want, or through some supernatural ability, you will end up with the same gender imbalance as parents choose the gender that is most advantageous for the family in their culture. $\endgroup$ – user11864 Jan 24 '17 at 17:29
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Extinct? No.

The Toba Catastrophe brought the early homo sapien population down to 3,000-10,000 individuals. At that time we were literally still figuring out how to make good stone tools and still managed to bounced back. Your people have already discovered agriculture. Homo sapien is a really tough species to wipe out.

As for specific homo sapien cultures? Those can and have gotten ideas into their heads so dumb that the cultures collapsed for internal reasons. Even very small differences in sex ratio can destabilizing. Humans start doing dumb things when they think they can't find a mate and have a family, especially if they blame socity (rightly wrongly).

TL:DR, I think the culture of your city could doom itself by making bad choices about infant sex, but that would happen well before the species became an endangered species.

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If the parents could choose, at first they would pick whatever they wanted, but then as the entire world becomes affected by their choices, more parents will start to pick the sex that would restore balance in the world. Unless the entire species decide that they don't want to exist anymore collectively, people will naturally opt to restore the balance to keep the species going.

The benefit, of course, is that you have choice. And people will tend to choose to benefit the greater whole, overall.

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It will probably depend a lot on the time period or tech level of your world. An all-female Roman legion wouldn't do very well as brute strength was a necessity with that style of fighting, whereas nowadays more and more militaries are allowing women into combat roles as they aren't at an inherent disadvantage

If healthcare is sufficient for females to survive multiple births with ease, then even a shortage of females wouldn't be a problem as long as couples are encouraged to have more than 2 children.

In this article from 2013, it is claimed that while almost half of American couples would prefer a male firstborn, only 21% wanted a daughter. The rest had no preference. Of course, in this scenario, you could say the government suggests a gender for those who don't mind in order to keep the tables balanced.

So if you can opt out of the choice, letting the city council decide what is best for the good of everyone if you really don't mind, the system could work. And like I said, there's the possibility that it really won't be a problem if there are a lot more of either gender.

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Extinction?

No.

Evidence: We can actually do this, and we're not extinct.

In particular, the largest population on Earth is China. China has millions more men/fewer women than natural human biologically leads to, as a social consequence of because of both their one-child-per-family policy and their relative social valuation of men and women.

What differences will it make?

  • Wifeless men (in the Chinese reality) leading to increased economic demand for prostitution, leading to more sex trafficking. (I'm not sure how strong the evidence for this is, but it's certainly the fear).
  • No significant changes to violence and crime — the Chinese were worried about it, but there's no evidence for it.

Citation: http://www.earlyhumandevelopment.com/article/S0378-3782(11)00276-3/abstract

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    $\begingroup$ "Evidence: We can actually do this, and we're not extinct." Weak evidence. It shouldn't be "No." It should be "Not necessarily." You have provided one counterexample, thus demonstrating that extinction isn't guaranteed -- good. But that doesn't mean it wouldn't occur given different social conditions (see other answer about One Child Policy in China, for example). If there were some extreme pressure to produce an heir of one sex or the other, you have a Prisoners' Dilemma of who volunteers to raise the other sex. $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 24 '17 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ @SRM Every nation can do this. China is just the most extreme case of people choosing to gender-bias their offspring, but we all have the capability of doing so. $\endgroup$ – BenRW Jan 24 '17 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ exactly my point. Any country also could not do that. $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 24 '17 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM I provided 195 counter examples, not one. $\endgroup$ – BenRW Jan 24 '17 at 22:24
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    $\begingroup$ @SRM I think I see what you're saying, allow me to paraphrase to see if I have a compatible understanding: "Extinction: Unlikely" instead of "Extinction: No"? $\endgroup$ – BenRW Jan 28 '17 at 13:18
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It would depend on cultural biases. If the culture was severely tilted in favor of one sex or the other then there would be a strong impulse to self select that sex. the ultimate saving grace though is that you did not specify that couples were limited to 1 child, therefore unless the bias is very severe (in which case you probably have a lot worse problems) even a strong preference to have the preferred sex as 1st born the want of diversity would become stronger for each successive child, so I would envision that you would have enough mixed sex family's. In addition even in the case of war, your hypothesis that males would be the overwhelming desired sex, I would think that the recognition for care giver instinct in females would make them equally desirable. Additionally if there was a good chance you could loose all your male children in battle the females would be the only way to ensure the continuation of your family line another strong motivator for children (EG if you don't have a boy your family name could end with you)

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I would also like to add something I haven't read yet. Since the popular answer is to make it government mandated which is something you have said specifically won't happen... why don't you make it so that some of the more no-preference couples or people that believe in the philosophy of doings for the greater good choose to have girls to help the society and it's future? If you take someone who is of an altruistic mentality, they will more than likely sacrifice personal choice for what is best for the society. If society becomes imbalanced with males vs females, there is bound to be a group of people that follow that philosophy and will chose female naturally.

As others pointed out, some people may choose female simply for the fact that their family would now become a highly valuable name that they can marry off their daughter to someone rich/famous/powerful in turn for selfish gains. You can bet that if there is a shortage of females and a new male heir to the throne is born, many people will choose girl in hopes that they can be selected to be the heir's wife and guaranteeing their family's prosperity.

So whether the couple are opportunists or altruists, someone will attempt to have females :)

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