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Son Preference and Household Income in Rural China

Author

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  • John Knight
  • Li Shi
  • Deng Quheng

Abstract

Why is it that couples who have a son or whose last child is a son earn higher conditional income? To solve this curious case we tell a detective story: evidence of a phenomenon to be explained, a parade of suspects, a process of elimination from the enquiry, and then the denouement. Given the draconian family planning policy and a common perception that there is strong son preference in rural China, we postulate two main hypotheses: income-based sex selection making it more likely that richer households have sons, and an incentive for households with sons to raise their income. Tests of each hypothesis are conducted. Taken as a whole, the tests cannot reject either hypothesis but they tend to favour the incentive hypothesis; and there is evidence in support of the channels through which the incentive effect might operate. To our knowledge, this is the first study to test these hypotheses against each other in rural China and more generally in developing countries.

Suggested Citation

  • John Knight & Li Shi & Deng Quheng, 2010. "Son Preference and Household Income in Rural China," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(10), pages 1786-1805.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jdevst:v:46:y:2010:i:10:p:1786-1805 DOI: 10.1080/00220388.2010.492948
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    Cited by:

    1. Knight, John, 2013. "The economic causes and consequences of social instability in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 17-26.
    2. Shang-Jin Wei & Xiaobo Zhang, 2016. "The Competitive Saving Motive: Concept, Evidence, and Implications," Frontiers of Economics in China, Higher Education Press, vol. 11(3), pages 355-366, September.
    3. Ding, Weili & Zhang, Yuan, 2014. "When a son is born: The impact of fertility patterns on family finance in rural China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 192-208.
    4. Husain, Zakir & Dutta, Mousumi & Saha, Manashi, 2011. "Gender disparities in primary education across siblings: is intra household disparity higher in regions with low child sex ratios?," MPRA Paper 30791, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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