The cultural and demographic evolution of son preference and marriage type in contemporary China

Biological Theory 6 (3):272-282 (2011)


A skew in sex ratio at birth occurs across much of Asia and North Africa. The resulting gender imbalance in favor of men in the adult population causes a number of serious social problems, including increased violence against women and an increasing number of “forced bachelors” in many areas. Here we concentrate on the sex ratio at birth in China and model two causal factors specific to Chinese culture: a traditional preference for sons over daughters and a preference for brides to move to their husband’s natal home. We use cultural niche construction models to explore the interacting effect of both son preference and marriage-type preference on the demography of the region. Finally, we discuss the implications of this model for policy interventions in the future.

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