Baby Bonus, Fertility, and Missing Women

69 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2023

See all articles by Wookun Kim

Wookun Kim

Southern Methodist University (SMU) - Department of Economics

Date Written: August 16, 2023


Total fertility rates have declined across many developed countries. Many policies have been implemented in an attempt to reverse this trend. This paper presents novel causal evidence on the effects of one such policy—pro-natalist financial incentives offered in South Korea—on fertility, sex, and infant health. I exploit rich spatial and temporal variation in cash transfers provided to families with newborn babies and the universe of birth, death, and migrant registry records. I find that the total fertility rate in 2015 would have been 4.7% lower without the cash transfers. Surprisingly, the cash transfers had an unintended consequence of correcting the unnaturally male-skewed sex ratio. The cash transfers led to reductions in gestational age and birth weight, but no change in early-life mortality. A rich heterogeneity analysis suggests that negative selection into childbearing may explain the health effects and that cash transfers may have a positive impact on birth weight for low-income families.


Funding Information: This project was supported in part by the California Center for Population Research at UCLA with the grant (T32HD007545; P2CHD041055) from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Conflict of Interests: I am the sole author of this paper and I confirm that there is no competing interest whatsoever.

Keywords: cash transfer, pro-natalist, birth weight, gestational age, missing women, son preference

JEL Classification: H40, H75, I50, J13, J16, J18

Suggested Citation

Kim, Wookun, Baby Bonus, Fertility, and Missing Women (August 16, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Wookun Kim (Contact Author)

Southern Methodist University (SMU) - Department of Economics ( email )

Dallas, TX 75275
United States
2147683237 (Phone)


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