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Why is son preference declining in South Korea ? the role of development and public policy, and the implications for China and India

Author

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  • Chung, Woojin
  • Das Gupta, Monica

Abstract

For years, South Korea presented the puzzling phenomenon of steeply rising sex ratios at birth despite rapid development, including in women's education and formal employment. This paper shows that son preference decreased in response to development, but its manifestation continued until the mid-1990s due to improved sex-selection technology. The paper analyzes unusually rich survey data, and finds that the impact of development worked largely through triggering normative changes across the whole society - rather than just through changes in individuals as their socio-economic circumstances changed. The findings show that nearly three-quarters of the decline in son preference between 1991 and 2003 is attributable to normative change, and the rest to increases in the proportions of urban and educated people. South Korea is now the first Asian country to reverse the trend in rising sex ratios at birth. The paper discusses the cultural underpinnings of son preference in pre-industrial Korea, and how these were unraveled by industrialization and urbanization, while being buttressed by public policies upholding the patriarchal family system. Finally, the authors hypothesize that child sex ratios in China and India will decline well before they reach South Korean levels of development, since they have vigorous programs to accelerate normative change to reduce son preference.

Suggested Citation

  • Chung, Woojin & Das Gupta, Monica, 2007. "Why is son preference declining in South Korea ? the role of development and public policy, and the implications for China and India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4373, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4373
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Zimmermann, Laura V, 2012. "It's a Boy! Women and Non-Monetary Benefits from a Son in India," IZA Discussion Papers 6847, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Pauline Grosjean & Rose Khattar, 2014. "It's Raining Men! Hallelujah?," Discussion Papers 2014-29, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.
    3. Grogan, Louise, 2013. "Household formation rules, fertility and female labour supply: Evidence from post-communist countries," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 1167-1183.
    4. Fuhua Zhai & Qin Gao, 2010. "Center-Based Care in the Context of One-Child Policy in China: Do Child Gender and Siblings Matter?," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 29(5), pages 745-774, October.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Population Policies; Gender and Law; Gender and Development; Access to Finance; Gender and Health;

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