Why Women Own Less in China? Sibship Structure, Intersibling Transfer, and Gender Inequality in Homeownership
26 Pages Posted: 21 May 2023
Date Written: May 16, 2023
As in most other societies, women in China own less wealth than men, which affects their rights and welfare within and beyond the household. Meanwhile, housing assets have constituted the largest share of family wealth after decades of market reforms. Therefore, this study focuses on the inequality in homeownership between Chinese men and women and examines how the sibship structure explains the gender disparity. While most prior literature considers parents’ unequal transfers to sons and daughters, we argue that both intergenerational and intersibling transfers contribute to the gender wealth gap. Due to the strong patrilineal and patrilocal traditions, Chinese parents are more likely to help their sons purchase housing assets. Moreover, to improve male competitiveness in the marriage market, siblings are more likely to provide financial support to their brothers than their sisters. Consequently, having siblings may exert opposite effects on men and women. While more siblings do not worsen and may even improve men’s access to homeownership, women’s prospect of owning housing assets decreases as their number of siblings increases. Using data from the China Family Panel Studies and the covariate balancing generalized propensity score (CBGPS) method to address the selection into different sibship sizes, we provide robust evidence for the proposed hypotheses. We find that (1) compared to only-child sons, only-child daughters are significantly less likely to have their names on the property deed; (2) gender inequality in homeownership grows as the number of siblings increases; and (3) while men benefit from having siblings, women get penalized in access to housing assets, especially among those who have younger siblings spaced apart. Under the current pronatalist policies, these findings suggest that without drastic changes in norms and culture, some Chinese women might continue to be disadvantaged in wealth.
Keywords: gender inequality, wealth inequality, housing inequality, and sibship structure
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