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The Decline of Son Preference in South Korea: The Roles of Development and Public Policy

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  • Woojin Chung
  • Monica Das Gupta

Abstract

For years, sex ratios at birth kept rising in South Korea despite rapid development. We show that this was not an anomaly: underlying son preference fell with development, but the effect of son preference on sex ratios at birth rose until the mid-1990s as a result of improved sex-selection technology. Now South Korea leads Asia with a declining sex ratio at birth. We explore how son preference was affected by development and by public policy. Decomposition analysis indicates that development reduced son preference primarily through triggering normative changes across society-rather than just in individuals whose socioeconomic circumstances had changed. The cultural underpinnings of son preference in preindustrial Korea were unraveled by industrialization and urbanization even as public policies sought to uphold the patriarchal family system. Our results suggest that child sex ratios in China and India may decline before those countries reach South Korean levels of development, since the governments of both countries vigorously promote normative change to reduce son preference. Copyright 2007 The Population Council, Inc..

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by The Population Council, Inc. in its journal Population and Development Review.

Volume (Year): 33 (2007)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 757-783

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Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:33:y:2007:i:4:p:757-783

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Cited by:
  1. Zhang, Chuanchuan, 2011. "Children, support in old age and social insurance in rural China," MPRA Paper 37798, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Lin, Tin-chi & Adsera, Alicia, 2012. "Son Preference and Children's Housework: The Case of India," IZA Discussion Papers 6929, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. World Bank, 2012. "Toward Gender Equality in East Asia and the Pacific : A Companion to the World Development Report," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 12598, July.
  4. Filmer, Deon & Friedman, Jed & Schady, Norbert, 2008. "Development, modernization, and son preference in fertility decisions," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4716, The World Bank.
  5. Das Gupta, Monica & Chung, Woojin & Shuzhuo, Li, 2009. "Is there an incipient turnaround in Asia's"missing girls"phenomenon ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4846, The World Bank.
  6. Kana Fuse, 2013. "Daughter preference in Japan: A reflection of gender role attitudes?," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 28(36), pages 1021-1052, May.
  7. Adamou, Adamos & Drakos, Christina & Iyer, Sriya, 2013. "Missing Women in the United Kingdom," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1306, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  8. Avraham Ebenstein, 2011. "Estimating a Dynamic Model of Sex Selection in China," Demography, Springer, vol. 48(2), pages 783-811, May.
  9. Nandi, Arindam & Deolalikar, Anil B., 2013. "Does a legal ban on sex-selective abortions improve child sex ratios? Evidence from a policy change in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 216-228.
  10. Lee, Chioun & Glei, Dana A. & Weinstein, Maxine & Goldman, Noreen, 2014. "Death of a child and parental wellbeing in old age: Evidence from Taiwan," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 166-173.
  11. Lena Edlund & Chulhee Lee, 2013. "Son Preference, Sex Selection and Economic Development: The Case of South Korea," NBER Working Papers 18679, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Tin-chi Lin, 2009. "The decline of son preference and rise of gender indifference in Taiwan since 1990," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 20(16), pages 377-402, April.
  13. Prabir C. Bhattacharya, 2012. "Gender Inequality and the Sex Ratio in Three Emerging Economies," Heriot-Watt University Economics Discussion Papers 1201, Department of Economics, School of Management and Languages, Heriot Watt University.
  14. Keera Allendorf, 2012. "Like daughter, like son? Fertility decline and the transformation of gender systems in the family," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 27(16), pages 429-454, October.
  15. Daniel Goodkind, 2011. "Child Underreporting, Fertility, and Sex Ratio Imbalance in China," Demography, Springer, vol. 48(1), pages 291-316, February.
  16. Quanbao Jiang & Shuzhuo Li & Marcus Feldman, 2011. "Demographic Consequences of Gender Discrimination in China: Simulation Analysis of Policy Options," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer, vol. 30(4), pages 619-638, August.
  17. Douglas Almond & Lena Edlund & Kevin Milligan, 2009. "O Sister, Where Art Thou? The Role of Son Preference and Sex Choice: Evidence from Immigrants to Canada," NBER Working Papers 15391, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Sam Hyun Yoo, 2014. "Educational differentials in cohort fertility during the fertility transition in South Korea," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 30(53), pages 1463-1494, May.
  19. Kathryn Yount & Sarah Zureick-Brown & Nafisa Halim & Kayla LaVilla, 2014. "Fertility Decline, Girls’ Well-being, and Gender Gaps in Children’s Well-being in Poor Countries," Demography, Springer, vol. 51(2), pages 535-561, April.

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