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Son Preference and Health Disparities in Developing Countries

Le, Kien and Nguyen, My (2022): Son Preference and Health Disparities in Developing Countries.

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Abstract

Recorded history demonstrates the preference for sons in every aspect of life. Today, despite being considered a powerful manifestation of gender inequality and discrimination against women, the preference for sons over daughters is still prevalent worldwide. In this study, we investigate the extent to which son preference influences health disparities between sons and daughters in 66 developing countries. We find that the differences in height-for-age and weight-for-age z-scores between daughters and their peers are 0.135 and 0.098 standard deviation lower compared to the analogous differences between sons and their peers due to son preference. Our heterogeneity analysis further shows that son preference disproportionately affects children of disadvantaged backgrounds such as those living in rural areas, born to lower-educated mothers, and coming from poor families.

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