Tradition Revived: How Control Over Means of Production Increased Son Preference in China’s Post-socialist Transition

74 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2021 Last revised: 5 Sep 2022

See all articles by Fangqi Wen

Fangqi Wen

Australian National University (ANU) - College of Asia and the Pacific

Date Written: November 23, 2021

Abstract

Previous research has documented that in many dimensions gender equality has deteriorated in former socialist countries. In this study, I incorporate Engels’ private property-monogamy thesis and discussions in the market transition debate to examine the impact of economic privatization on patrilineal lineage in the Chinese post-socialist transition. Specifically, I argue that as family names are still largely inherited through male lines, the desire of passing wealth, especially means of production, from one generation to another within the family could lead to parents’ demand for a male heir. Consequently, the control over means of production in the post-socialist period increases Chinese families’ probability of having male offspring. Using a nationally representative longitudinal dataset and exploiting variation in the timing of control over means of production, I provide empirical evidence for the hypothesis proposed. I further show that to fulfill their desire for a son, male private sector employers choose to have more births, while farmers who 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 an unintended 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, Tradition Revived: How Control Over Means of Production Increased Son Preference in China’s Post-socialist Transition (November 23, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3969659 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3969659

Fangqi Wen (Contact Author)

Australian National University (ANU) - College of Asia and the Pacific ( email )

Australia

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