Family Systems, Political Systems and Asia’s "Missing Girls": The Construction of Son Preference and Its Unraveling

Monica Das Gupta, World Bank Group

Son preference is known to exist in patrilineal cultures. But why do China, South Korea, and Northwest India manifest such extreme preference compared with other patrilineal societies? We argue this is because their pre-modern political and administrative systems used patrilineages to organize and administer their citizens. The interplay of culture, state, and political processes generated uniquely rigid patriliny and son preference. We also argue that the advent of the modern state has unraveled the underpinnings of rigid patrilineal rules, and unleashed forces that reduce son preference. The modern state has powerful tools for incorporating and managing its citizenry, rendering patrilineages a threat not an asset to the state. They have initiated political, social, and legal reforms that challenge traditional age and gender hierarchies. Industrialization and urbanization reduced the hold of lineages. States can accelerate this decline in son preference through media advocacy that daughters are now as valuable as sons.

  See paper

Presented in Session 61: Gender, Development and Demographic Processes