Modernization and Son Preference in People's Republic of China

Publication | September 2002

Gaps in welfare attainment between boys and girls in the People's Republic of China (PRC) have attracted international attention. In this paper demand analysis is used to discover the factors that may be driving the emergence of these gender gaps. Drawing on household expenditure data from a poor (Sichuan) and rich (Jiangsu) province the paper is able to test for different types of gender bias in intra-household allocation. Results show that spending on health is biased against young girls in the poor province but not in the rich province, and education spending is biased against older girls in both provinces. These biases in household spending were further found to correspond closely to gender biases in mortality and enrollment outcomes as revealed in census data for the same year. Split sample analysis indicates that poorer, less diversified households exhibit stronger biases against girls. Taken together, the results suggest that son preference in rural PRC is not driven solely by cultural factors, pointing to a potential role for public policy.

Contents 

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • SON Preference in the PRC
  • Data
  • Gender Biases in Household Spending
  • Correspondence with Welfare Outcomes
  • Determinants of SON Preference
  • Conclusions
  • References