Sex Selection and Fertility Choices: Analysis and Policy

Avraham Ebenstein, University of California, Berkeley

This paper identifies sex selection via infanticide and abortion as the principal explanation for the sex ratio distortion in Asia, and rules out competing explanations such as biology. I outline a model of a mother's fertility choice when she has access to a sex-selection technology and faces a mandated fertility limit. By exploiting variation in fines levied in China for unsanctioned births, I demonstrate that higher fine regimes discourage fertility but are associated with higher sex ratios among those who choose to have an additional child. Estimation of the model using China's 2000 census indicates that a son is worth 2.90 years of income more than a daughter, and the premium is highest among less educated mothers and rural families. I conclude with a set of simulations to model the effect on sex ratios and total fertility of a proposed subsidy to families who fail to have a son.

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Presented in Session 75: Abortion I