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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..

Suggested Citation

  • Woojin Chung & Monica Das Gupta, 2007. "The Decline of Son Preference in South Korea: The Roles of Development and Public Policy," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 33(4), pages 757-783.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:33:y:2007:i:4:p:757-783
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Monica Das Gupta & Jiang Zhenghua & Li Bohua & Xie Zhenming & Woojin Chung & Bae Hwa-Ok, 2003. "Why is Son preference so persistent in East and South Asia? a cross-country study of China, India and the Republic of Korea," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(2), pages 153-187.
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    6. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
    7. Chai Park, 1983. "Preference for Sons, Family Size, and Sex Ratio: An Empirical Study in Korea," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 20(3), pages 333-352, August.
    8. Nielsen, Helena Skyt, 1998. "Discrimination and detailed decomposition in a logit model," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 115-120, October.
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    11. repec:cai:poeine:pope_406_0865 is not listed on IDEAS
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