Sex Preference Versus Number Preference: The Case of Korea

Lee, Sung Yong
Working paper no. 1995-23


This paper examines whether son preference has a strong positive effect on fertility rates. To test this hypothesis, Korea was used as a case because Korea still shows strong son preference but its fertility rates have reached below the replacement level. To reject the positive effect of sex preference on total fertility rates, number preference must be distinguished from sex preference. Statistical analysis shows that the existence of a son has a stronger effect on fertility behavior in Korea than the number of children. Through sex-selective technologies, abnormally higher sex ratios at birth have occurred since 1985. I argue that the fertility rates below the replacement level during the late 1980s are not permanent but a temporary phenomenon, through increased birth intervals and late ages at marriage.