The Brother's Penalty: Son Preference and Girl's Health in China
56 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2022
We propose a novel apples-to-apples comparison strategy to identify the causal effect of son preference on child physical health from endogenous sibling gender composition. Using first-born boy ratio within a community as an instrument and data from the Chinese Family Panel Studies, we find that a girl, no matter whether she is a firstborn or a second born, is significantly 0.18 standard deviations shorter if she has a brother than otherwise had a sister, other things being equal. Falsification tests suggest the penalty does not result from sibling gender compositions or birth order. Our results are robust to using different growth charts and excluding gender-neutral ethnic minorities. Evidence shows that parents prefer sons over daughters when facing limited resources. Heterogeneity analyses show that son preference is prominent in rural areas. Nonetheless, not all girls are affected by son preference, with firstborns moderately affected, middleborns faring the worst, and thirdborns unaffected.
Keywords: son preference, gender inequality, sibling gender composition, sibship size, birth interval, China
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