Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Study Denies the Traditional Son Preference in China

Yi Zeng, Duke University

This study is based on analyzing the unique data sets from the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey of interviews to 16,057 and 15,638 elderly aged 65-112 in the 22 provinces in 2002 and 2005. The results clearly demonstrates that having daughter(s) is beneficial at old ages in China, with respect to enjoying better filial piety of and relationship with children, care provided by children, and also maintaining a better cognitive capacity and reducing mortality risk, while controlling for various confounding factors. Such daughter-advantages are mostly more profound among the oldest-old as compared to younger elderly, and more profound in rural areas as compared to urban areas. We conclude that the publicly predominant perception of son preference in rural China, which leads to action of aborting the girl fetus to insure having at least one son under low fertility, is not a rational choice of peasants’ own interests for better old age care.

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Presented in Session 18: Demography with a Gender Lens