The Quest for a Son: How Control Over Means of Production Increased Demand for Male Offspring in China

58 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2021 Last revised: 18 Oct 2023

See all articles by Fangqi Wen

Fangqi Wen

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Sociology

Date Written: November 23, 2021

Abstract

Previous research has documented that gender equality has deteriorated in former socialist countries. This study employs Engels’ private property-monogamy thesis and discussions in the market transition debate. It aims to examine the impact of economic privatization on the demand for male offspring in China’s post-socialist transition. I argue that private control over means of production gave rise to inheritance issues that were inconceivable in the socialist era and triggered an incentive for people to keep wealth, especially means of production, within the family. In a society with strong patriarchal traditions, the regained desire to practice patrilineal inheritance would increase parents’ fertility preference for sons over daughters. Using a nationally representative longitudinal dataset, I show that private control over means of production increases the probability of having male offspring. Further analysis suggests that while male private business owners fulfill their desire for an heir by having more births, farmers who have obtained lands due to decollectivization not only have more children but also practice sex-selective abortions. My findings explain why the sex ratio at birth has become increasingly skewed in post-socialist China. They also imply a consequence of China’s economic reform — a revival of patrilineal lineage and son preference.

Keywords: Gender Inequality, Patrilineality, Son Preference, Sex Ratio, Market Transition, Post-Socialist Society, China

Suggested Citation

Wen, Fangqi, The Quest for a Son: How Control Over Means of Production Increased Demand for Male Offspring in China (November 23, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3969659 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3969659

Fangqi Wen (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Sociology ( email )

Columbus, OH

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Downloads
169
Abstract Views
864
Rank
321,467
PlumX Metrics