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On Substituting Sex Preference Strategies in East Asia: Does Prenatal Sex Selection Reduce Postnatal Discrimination?

Daniel Goodkind
Population and Development Review
Vol. 22, No. 1 (Mar., 1996), pp. 111-125
Published by: Population Council
DOI: 10.2307/2137689
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2137689
Page Count: 15
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On Substituting Sex Preference Strategies in East Asia: Does Prenatal Sex Selection Reduce Postnatal Discrimination?
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Abstract

Recent evidence from East Asia suggests that parents use prenatal sex testing to selectively abort female fetuses, a practice manifested in rising sex ratios (males per females) at birth. Many observers have condemned prenatal sex testing, arguing that it results in discriminatory abortion against females. However, observers have neglected the dynamics between this new prenatal discrimination and traditional postnatal discrimination against young daughters. If the option of sex-selective abortion implies that daughters carried to term are more likely to be wanted, postnatal discrimination might decline. Evidence from East Asia is used to investigate this "substitution" hypothesis. In societies where excess daughter mortality existed in the 1970s, rises in the sex ratio at birth in the 1980s tended to be associated with declines in excess daughter mortality. This preliminary support for the substitution hypothesis suggests that judging the morality of sex-selective abortion requires prior consideration of the prevalence and relative evils of both prenatal and postnatal discrimination.

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