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Socio-economic Characteristics and Excess Female Infant Mortality in Jilin Province, China

Publication Abstract

Anderson, Barbara A., and John H. Romani. 2009. "Socio-economic Characteristics and Excess Female Infant Mortality in Jilin Province, China." Population and Society, 5(2): 1-25.

This paper is based on data from Yanbian. Analysis of infant mortality in Yanbian sheds light on some important issues in the area of socio-economic status and female deprivation. Despite the high development level, strong son preference remains in Yanbian. In Yanbian, especially among ethnic Koreans, although higher household socio-economic status is related to lower infant mortality for both males and females, the higher the socio-economic status of families the GREATER the male-female differential in infant mortality, with males having lower infant mortality. It seems that when families have discretionary resources, they allocate them disproportionately to the welfare of boys rather than girls. Thus, female (relative) deprivation is not just a desperation or extreme poverty phenomenon. However, female infant mortality is responsive to the development level of locales. For example, female infant mortality is responsive to whether the household lives in a town rather than in a rural area, and also is sensitive to the availability of health personnel in the area. If households do not allocate discretionary resources to improve survival of baby girls, the healthfulness (i.e., quality of water and ease of access to health care) of the area in which the baby girl lives becomes especially important for her survival.

The findings in this paper have policy implications for Yanbian and other developed settings which retain a high degree of son preference. In Yanbian, as elsewhere in China and much of the rest of the world, the trend has been toward more reliance on the resources of individual households and less on public social services and social programs. Our results suggest that this kind of development is likely to lead to further improvements in the survival of infant boys, but is likely to result in much less improvement in the survival of infant girls.

Country of focus: China.

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