Son Preference or Son Pressure? Narratives of Fertility Decisions from Chinese Female Migrants

Felicia Feng Tian, Fudan University
Danielle Kane, DePauw University
Ke Liang, Baruch College, City University of New York (CUNY)

Though son preference has been identified as a major determinant for the imbalanced sex ratios at birth in China, Little about how son preference influences fertility decisions. Most studies either assume Chinese parents prefer sons as rational choices because of sons’ higher wage-earning or the ability to provide old-age support, or for cultural reasons such as lineage preservation and prosperity. By exploring narratives of fertility decisions for 42 Chinese female migrants, this article argues that son preference is not an individual choice per se, nor a joint decision by the couple, but a pressure descending from the upper generation of the husband's family, from mothers-in-law in particular. The results suggest the importance of an intergenerational perspective in exploring son preference in the Chinese context.

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Presented in Poster Session 1: Marriage, Unions, Families and Households