South Korea Bucks Crowded Trade In Asian Sons And Now Prefers Daughters

The Asian sex gap is now well known. There are about 100 million fewer women than men, creating a huge sex imbalance.

But a recent survey indicates that this may change. The Korea Institute of Child Care and Education found that 38 per cent of mothers-to-be wanted a daughter, while 31 per cent said they preferred a son. Among fathers-to be, 37 per cent wanted a daughter and 29 per cent a son.

If the reason for the sex imbalance revolves around parental choice in some way, Korea seems to have dramatically shifted gears. At the peak of the sex gap in Korea, there were 116.5 baby boys for every 100 girls born. Now the ratio is down to 106.4 boys for every 100 girls.

Lee Jeong Rim, a researcher at the Korea Institute of Child Care and Education, thinks this is due to the growth of the social safety net.

“Much of the responsibility to give economic support to the elderly has shifted to the social safety nets, and so the need to have sons have somewhat weakened,” Rim said.

We think it could be something even more basic. The sex imbalance in Asia has created a shortage of women, which should raise the value of daughters. As they become hot commodities sought after for marriage, parents should be able extract increasing rents for access to their daughters.  Indeed, the ancient practice of grooms paying a “bride price” to the family of their betrothed is said to already be making a comeback in parts of Asia.

(Hat tip: Freakonomics.)

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