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Son preference, sex selection and economic development, the case of South Korea.pdf

Son preference, sex selection and economic development, the case of South Korea.pdf

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NBER WORKING PAPER SERIESSON PREFERENCE, SEX SELECTION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT:THE CASE OF SOUTH KOREALena EdlundChulhee LeeWorking Paper 18679http://www.nber.org/papers/w18679NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH1050 Massachusetts AvenueCambridge, MA 02138January 2013
Lena Edlund conducted this research in her capacity as an associate professor at Columbia university,
No external sources funded this research. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and
do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Chulhee Lee conducted
this research in his capacity as a professor at Seoul National University. His research was supported
by National Research Foundation of South Korea (NRF-2010-327-B00094).
NBER working papers are circulated for discussion and comment purposes. They have not been peer-
reviewed or been subject to the review by the NBER Board of Directors that accompanies official
NBER publications.
© 2013 by Lena Edlund and Chulhee Lee. All rights reserved. Short sections of text, not to exceed
two paragraphs, may be quoted without explicit permission provided that full credit, including © notice,
is given to the source.
Son Preference, Sex Selection and Economic Development: The Case of South KoreaLena Edlund and Chulhee LeeNBER Working Paper No. 18679January 2013JEL No. J11,J16,O15
Sex ratios at birth in South Korea reached 116.5 boys per 100 girls in 1990, but have since declined.
In 2007, sex ratios were almost normal, a development heralded as a sign that son preference and sexchoice have vanished. However, normal sex ratios imply neither. We show that over the last 60 years,the relationship between sex ratios and parental status changed from negative to positive. This pattern,
we argue, is consistent with a model where parents prefer sons and sex select – ultrasound and economic
development accounting for the change in who chooses sons.Lena EdlundDepartment of EconomicsColumbia University1002A IAB, MC 3308420 West 118th StreetNew York, NY 10027and NBERle93@columbia.eduChulhee LeeDepartment of EconomicsSeoul National University599 Kwanak-ro, Kwanak-guSeoul, South Koreachullee@snu.ac.kr
1 Introduction
Normally, about 106 boys per 100 girls are born and there is a very slighttendency for mothers in good condition to have more boys [Almond and Ed-lund, 2007]. Sex selective infanticide and abortion make for more dramaticdeviations, as demonstrated by abnormally male sex ratios in countries suchas China and India. Confucianism and Hinduism share not only a unilinealview of descent emphasizing the male line but also lack explicit condemna-tion of infanticide – the main form of sex selection before the introduction of ultrasound technology in the early 1980s – present in Christianity and Islam.This paper focuses on South Korea (henceforth Korea), an East Asiancountry whose demographics have received relatively little attention. In addi-tion to being of interest in its own right, the Korean case may offer a previewof the demographic future of India and China as they progress on their pathsof economic growth. As late as the 1960s, Korea was a poor developing coun-try. Korea has not only taken the lead on economic growth, also been aheaddemographically. Because of extensive post-natal selection against girls in the1960s and 1970s and rapidly falling fertility, e.g., Goodkind [1996], the brideshortage now in the works in India and China appeared in Korea already inthe 1990s.Moreover, sex ratios at birth started to climb in Korea following the intro-duction of ultra-sound technology in the early 1980s. In 1990, 116.5boys per100 girls were born. Unlike India and China, however, sex ratios have sincedeclined to a normal 106 in 2007, see Figure 1.
Korea National Statistics Office, 2007 Annual Report on Live Births and Death Statis-tics.

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