Can Policy Interventions Reduce Excess Female Child Mortality in China and India? Lessons from South Korea

Woojin Chung, Yonsei University
Monica Das Gupta, World Bank Group

Like China and India, South Korea has shown a pattern of strong son preference, reflected in excess female child mortality, especially prenatally. In all three countries there have been strong policy interventions aimed at reducing parents’ preference for sons, but nevertheless sex ratios at birth continued to rise. Now Korea has shown some reversal of this trend. This raises questions for China and India: can social policies play a role, or will sex ratios normalize only when they reach Korea’s very high levels of urbanization and development? We explore these questions using the Korean family and fertility survey 2000. We decompose the net effect on son preference of (1) changes in the proportions educated and urbanized and (2) attitudinal shifts. We find that attitudinal shifts play much the larger role. This suggests that social policy can do much to reduce excess female child mortality.

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Presented in Session 35: Demographic Billionaires: India and China Compared