Son Preference in China: Why is it Stronger in Rural Areas?


The imbalanced sex ratio of the population in China has become a serious problem for the society. In recent decades considerably more male babies than female babies have been born in China due to people's preference for having male children. This trend is more prominent in rural areas than in urban areas. In this paper, we try to understand why rural areas have stronger son preference than urban areas. We hypothesize that the relationship between residential location and son preference is mediated by education, son's economic and cultural utilities, gender role beliefs, and patriarchal beliefs. To test these mediation effects we use the data from Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS) in 2006. The results indicate that the stronger son preference in rural areas is explained by lower educational level and the perception of son's economic and cultural utilities. It is not explained by gender role beliefs or patriarchal beliefs. In concluding remarks we offer suggestions for policy makers.