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Divorce, abortion, and the child sex ratio: The impact of divorce reform in China

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  • Sun, Ang
  • Zhao, Yaohui

Abstract

This paper estimates the effect of China's pro-women divorce reform on sex-selection behavior within marriages. The 2001 reform liberalized divorce in favor of women and secured women's property rights after separation. The paper applies a regression discontinuity analysis on the child sex ratio and finds that the likelihood of having a son after a firstborn daughter decreased by 8.1 percentage points, amounting to a reduction of 11.7% compared with the prior proportion of male children. Further analyses provide evidence in support of the hypothesis that improved divorce options empower women within marriage, and enable them to avoid health-damaging sex-selective abortion. The effect of the divorce reform is stronger in provinces where divorce is comparatively viable because of more lenient family planning policies governing fertility in the next marriage. The effect is also stronger among women who face higher health costs of abortion.

Suggested Citation

  • Sun, Ang & Zhao, Yaohui, 2016. "Divorce, abortion, and the child sex ratio: The impact of divorce reform in China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 53-69.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:120:y:2016:i:c:p:53-69
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2015.11.006
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    Cited by:

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    2. Lixing Li & Xiaoyu Wu & Yi Zhou, 0. "Intra-household bargaining power, surname inheritance, and human capital accumulation," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 0, pages 1-27.
    3. Olivier Bargain & Jordan Loper & Roberta Ziparo, 2020. "Traditional Norms, Access to Divorce and Women’s Empowerment: Evidence from Indonesia," Bordeaux Economics Working Papers 2020-14, Groupe de Recherche en Economie Théorique et Appliquée (GREThA).
    4. Heggeness, Misty L., 2020. "Improving child welfare in middle income countries: The unintended consequence of a pro-homemaker divorce law and wait time to divorce," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 143(C).
    5. Olivier Bargain & Jordan Loper & Roberta Ziparo, 2020. "Traditional Norms, Access to Divorce and Women’s Empowerment: Evidence from Indonesia," Working Papers hal-03258226, HAL.
    6. Han, Li & Shi, Xinzheng, 2019. "How does intergenerational investment respond to changes in the marriage market? Evidence from China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 109-121.
    7. Ang Sun & Chuanchuan Zhang & Xiangting Hu, 2019. "Boys, Girls, and Grandparents: The Impact of the Sex of Preschool-Aged Children on Family Living Arrangements and Maternal Labor Supply," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 56(3), pages 813-833, June.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Gender inequality; Intra-household allocation; Divorce law;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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