Gender Gap in Health Status of Children in the Context of One-Child Policy in China: Is it Sibling Rivalry or Son Preference?
This paper used data from 6 waves of the China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS) 1993–2009 to examine the effects of child gender, number of siblings, and sibling composition on children’s health status, noting particularly any gender gaps, in the context of China’s one-child policy. In the 1990s, the enforcement of the policy became less stringent, and ultrasound technologies, which enable prenatal gender selection, became more available. This led us to believe that the girls who were born were wanted by parents. In addition, growing income and industrialization should also narrow the gender gap in health status. Our results showed that on average, being a female decreased height-for-age approximately by 0.08 z-score as well as having an additional male sibling decreased height-for-age roughly by 0.17 z-score for a child under age 8. These results were particularly strong in the rural area but were non-existent in urban areas and among only-children. Our argument is that the gender gap was due to son preference and not sibling rivalry. Additionally, we found that having only one brother appeared to have a positive effect on girls’ health status, compared to boys with another brother who tended to become rivals for household resources.