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Son Preference in Anhui Province, China

Maureen J. Graham, Ulla Larsen and Xiping Xu
International Family Planning Perspectives
Vol. 24, No. 2 (Jun., 1998), pp. 72-77
Published by: Guttmacher Institute
DOI: 10.2307/2991929
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2991929
Page Count: 6
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Son Preference in Anhui Province, China
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Abstract

Context: Chinese couples, particularly those in rural areas, have historically had a strong preference for sons. This preference may affect couples' reproductive behavior and their treatment of girl vs. boy children. Methods: A community-based household survey was conducted in two rural counties of Anhui Province in 1993. Responses from 5,779 women of reproductive age who had had at least one birth yielded data on sex ratios, duration of breastfeeding and childbearing patterns. Results: The overall sex ratio was 1.18 male births per female birth, significantly higher than the expected ratio of 1.06; for first, second and third or higher order births, ratios were 1.17, 1.12 and 1.16, respectively. The sex ratio was low in 1980-1986, when the national one-child policy was strictly enforced, and was significantly elevated before 1980 (1.18) and in 1987-1993 (1.22). Last-born children, regardless of family size, had the highest sex ratio. Girls were breastfed for a significantly shorter duration than boys, particularly if they had an older sister and no brothers. Since 1980, couples with only a girl have been slightly more likely than those with only a boy to have a second child; those with two girls have been 5-6 times as likely as those with two boys to have a third child. The interval between pregnancies is shorter when the previous child was a girl than when the previous child was a boy. Conclusions: Couples in Anhui control the size of their families and attempt to control the sex composition. If China's fertility decline continues and the preference for sons remains unchanged, discrimination against girls may intensify.

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