Gender Imbalance and Parental Health-Compromising Behavior in Rural China

Xi Chen, Yale University

Many asian countries have experienced increasingly skewed sex ratios, triggering intensified marriage market competition. This paper utilizes two household longitudinal datasets from rural China – a primary census-type survey from Guizhou province and a secondary national survey from nine provinces – and a 1‰ sample of the 2000 China Population Census to examine parental health-threatening responses to skewed local sex ratios, tobacco smoking and alcohol drinking. Strikingly, parents with unmarried son engage in more health-compromising behavior, while those with daughter do not demonstrate this pattern. Income effect is not a viable explanation for the observed consumption pattern. Coping with marriage market stress and depression and wealth signaling are the most plausible pathway. Moreover, this paper employs unique social network datasets to spatially distinguish indirect marriage pressure spills over in the networks from the direct effect estimated by non-spatial models.

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