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Three Generations of Changing Gender Patterns of Schooling in the People’s Republic of China


  • McGarry, Kathleen

    (Asian Development Bank Institute)

  • Sun, Xiaoting

    (Asian Development Bank Institute)


The phenomenon of son preference in the People’s Republic of China and throughout much of Asia has been well documented. However, changing economic conditions, such as increases in educational attainment and employment opportunities for women and the rise in the prevalence of one-child families, have likely changed the incentives for parents to invest in daughters. We take advantage of data spanning three generations of Chinese families to examine the evolution of educational attainment for boys and girls and importantly the relative levels of schooling of each gender. We also use variation in the timing of compulsory schooling laws and the implementation of the one-child policy to assess the effect of these policy measures on the relative educational levels. We find a substantial narrowing of the gap between the schooling of boys and girls, so much so that girls now have more schooling on average than boys. In addition, public policy initiatives had a larger effect in rural than urban areas.

Suggested Citation

  • McGarry, Kathleen & Sun, Xiaoting, 2018. "Three Generations of Changing Gender Patterns of Schooling in the People’s Republic of China," ADBI Working Papers 834, Asian Development Bank Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:ris:adbiwp:0834

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. G. Gandhi Kingdon, 2002. "The Gender Gap in Educational Attainment in India: How Much Can Be Explained?," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(2), pages 25-53.
    3. Rohini Pande, 2003. "Selective gender differences in childhood nutrition and immunization in rural India: The role of siblings," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 40(3), pages 395-418, August.
    4. Song, Lina & Appleton, Simon & Knight, John, 2006. "Why Do Girls in Rural China Have Lower School Enrollment?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 34(9), pages 1639-1653, September.
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    More about this item


    compulsory schooling; one-child policy; gender differences in education;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • 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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