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An Economic Framework for Persisting Son Preference: Rethinking the Role of Intergenerational Support

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  • Sara Tafuro

    (Université de Paris)

Abstract

Son preference drives pre- and post-natal discrimination of daughters in many countries. It surprisingly survives in societies undergoing rapid transformation, and its correlates are not fully understood, particularly in the socio-economic sphere. This paper reviews the old-age security motive for son preference and proposes a new framework for this rationale. We argue that in patrilocal contexts, son preference survives where informal economic institutions (community and especially the family) persist as primary safety nets against various instances of income uncertainty, making up for the inefficiencies of state and market (formal institutions). This hypothesis is tested through a cross-country statistical analysis of ecological correlates of pre- and post-natal discrimination. Results confirm that, while son preference expresses through daughters’ neglect in more traditional societies, it endures through prenatal selection in contexts of improving living standards and, at the same time, strong reliance on network solidarity and informal insurance strategies. In support of these findings, we briefly review the main country-cases of sex selection, namely South Korea, China, Vietnam, India and the South Caucasian region.

Suggested Citation

  • Sara Tafuro, 2020. "An Economic Framework for Persisting Son Preference: Rethinking the Role of Intergenerational Support," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 39(6), pages 983-1007, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:poprpr:v:39:y:2020:i:6:d:10.1007_s11113-020-09594-8
    DOI: 10.1007/s11113-020-09594-8
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    References listed on IDEAS

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