, 48:783 | Cite as

Estimating a Dynamic Model of Sex Selection in China

  • Avraham EbensteinEmail author


High ratios of males to females in China, which have historically concerned researchers (Sen 1990), have increased in the wake of China’s one-child policy, which began in 1979. Chinese policymakers are currently attempting to correct the imbalance in the sex ratio through initiatives that provide financial compensation to parents with daughters. Other scholars have advocated a relaxation of the one-child policy to allow more parents to have a son without engaging in sex selection. In this article, I present a model of fertility choice when parents have access to a sex-selection technology and face a mandated fertility limit. By exploiting variation in fines levied in China for unsanctioned births, I estimate the relative price of a son and daughter for mothers observed in China’s census data (1982–2000). I find that a couple’s first son is worth 1.42 years of income more than a first daughter, and the premium is highest among less-educated mothers and families engaged in agriculture. Simulations indicate that a subsidy of 1 year of income to families without a son would reduce the number of “missing girls” by 67% but impose an annual cost of 1.8% of Chinese gross domestic product (GDP). Alternatively, a three-child policy would reduce the number of “missing girls” by 56% but increase the fertility rate by 35%.


Sex-selective abortion China One-child policy Dynamic programming 



This manuscript is taken from my graduate dissertation, and I am greatly indebted to my advisors, David Card and Ronald Lee, for their counsel and support. I would also like to thank Jerome Adda, Rodney Andrews, Richard Crump, Monica Deza, Simon Galed, Alexander Gelber, Gopi Shah Goda, Jonathan Gruber, Damon Jones, William Lavely, Claudia Sitgraves, Kevin Stange, Kenneth Train, and Ebonya Washington.

Supplementary material

13524_2011_30_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (38 kb)
Esm 1 Estimating a Dynamic Model of Sex Selection in China—Online Appendix on Additional Information on Fines on Excess Fertility in China (PDF 38 kb)
13524_2011_30_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (79 kb)
Esm 2 Three Child Model—Technical Appendix (PDF 79 kb)


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsHebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

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