Why Do Parents Abort Girls? Patrilocality and Its Historical Origin

Wednesday, January 15, 2014
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM
Philippines Conference Room
  • Avraham Ebenstein

Co-sponsored by the Stanford Center for International Development

Recent scholarship has documented an alarming increase in the sex ratio at birth in parts of East Asia, South Asia and the Caucuses. In this paper, I argue that parents in these regions engage in sex selection because of patrilocal norms that dictate elderly coresidence between parents and sons. Sex ratios and coresidence rates are positively correlated when looking across countries, within countries across districts, and within districts across ethnic groups. The paper then examines the roots of patrilocality and biased sex ratios using the Ethnographic Atlas (Murdock 1965). I find that ethnic groups in areas with land conducive to intensive agriculture have stronger patrilocal norms, higher modern coresidence rates, and higher sex ratios at birth. The paper concludes with an examination of the expansion to old age support in South Korea. Consistent with the paper’s argument, I find that the program was associated with a normalization in the sex ratio at birth.

Avi Ebenstein received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, Berkeley in 2007 is a Lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the Department of Economics. His fields of interest include environmental economics, economic demography, and international trade. Avi's past research has focused primarily on issues related to  China, including the health impacts of air and water pollution, causes and consequences for the country’s high sex ratio at birth, internal migration, and the impact of China’s entry into the global economy on wage patterns domestically and in the United States. He is currently a Visiting Research Scholar at the Center for Health and Wellbeing at Princeton University.