“Transition of Son Preference: Child Gender and Parental Inputs in Korea” by Eleanor Jawon Choi
Eleanor Jawon Choi
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
Sex ratio at birth remains highly skewed in many Asian countries due to son preference. In South Korea, however, the ratio declined from 116.5 boys per 100 girls in 1990 to the natural ratio of 107 since 2007. In this paper, we investigate parents' time and monetary inputs by the sex of the child to test whether son preference has disappeared in Korea. We use data from several sources, including Korean Labor and Income Panel Survey, Korean Time Use Survey, Korean Education Longitudinal Study, and Private Education Expenditures Survey, to study parental inputs on various dimensions. Our empirical strategy exploits randomness of the first child's sex to overcome potential bias from endogenous fertility decisions following Dahl and Moretti (2008). Our findings show that boy-girl differences still appear after birth in forms of parental inputs but that they have also narrowed down over the past two decades: 1) Mothers of girls are more likely to be working compared to mothers of boys. 2) Girls spend more time on housework than boys but the gender gap halves from 1999 to 2009. 3) Parents spend more on private education for boys than for girls but the difference diminishes across years. 4) Parents have higher expectations of sons than daughters regarding their educational attainment and career. Findings are not consistent with alternative explanations and suggest the existence, and weakening of, son preference in Korea.