• Chang-E Project

Son Preference: Brief History and Analysis

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

We live in a society where thoughts and decisions are manipulated by others. Over the decades, the inequality between men and women have continued and even in today’s generation. This inequality exists in several different situations. Ranging from birth to jobs, there has always been a void between the two genders. Throughout the world, there has been a major problem of gender preference. As parents, having a child is one of the happiest moments in life but sometimes it gets corrupt with the ideals of a lowly society. 


Son preference is one of the oldest issues in our societies, with a reference of sons getting preferential treatment over daughters in South Asia and developing countries. The preference of sons can be explained by an attitude; it's a belief that boys are more valuable than girls. There are numerous factors affecting son preference such as socio-economic set up from society, cultural beliefs, culture restrictions on women, and the notion that males are supposed to act like alphas. Son preference began with the belief that sons were more “useful” and girls merely a “guest”, as they are expected to leave after marriage. Women didn’t have much of an opportunity since they weren’t the breadwinner of the family. As we know it, having a son or daughter is more than a medium of earning money. Unfortunately, during these times, sons were way more preferable than daughters.

The History 

Although undetermined, son preference became noticeable around the late 20th century when data surfaced with numbers revealing the population of several provinces in China. The ratio of male to female was tipped off when the numbers came down to 108 male births to every 100 female births; that number later on increased to 120 male births in the 2000s. In China, for thousands of years, most of the Chinese population preferred sons rather than daughters. This situation is not just common in China but also in other South Asian countries. India, for instance, suffers from this issue as well; underdeveloped areas still have that age-old mentality. In India, the problem is more severe: families would terminate their firstborn child if it was a girl, thinking that it would bring problems. A daughter's birth in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan was considered as an economic liability because of the dowry system and the higher incurring cost on their weddings. 

Over time, as society advanced, people’s morals started to change as well. Most people in today’s generation have opposing thoughts. In 2015, the prime minister of India started the movement “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” (Save the Daughter, Educate the Daughter) to bring awareness and improve the efficiency of welfare services intended for girls in India. Movements like this help our society understand the importance of girls and how every life is important. 

Recap: Statistics around the Globe

Son preference in present day is still most present in Southeastern Asia according to The Advocates for Human Rights. A 2015 statistic from UNFPA showed that countries like China, Vietnam, India, and Singapore have the highest ratio of boys born to girls born, with China having the highest ratio of 115.9 boys per 100 girls. Other sources, like Lund University show that the ratio in China may have gone as high as 121 boys per 100 girls. To this day, the issue is most serious in China, where according to The Guardian, the government has already spent up to 300 million yuan in order to shift preferences away in having a boy, and is also cracking down on abortions that are related to specific sexes. This is mainly due to many rural villages in China that aren’t as developed, and them holding on to the stigma of having the son do the work, along with the relatively low GDP of 99 trillion Yuan (keep in mind that the population is 1.4 billion). Though son preference is not as common in America, it does still exist. A 2018 poll from Gallup Polls from 2018 shows that 28% would prefer a girl while 36% would prefer a boy. Most of the concepts of son preference tend to stem from the thoughts that men are stronger, they are the ones that usually do the work, etc. These conceptions are generally a retainment of many societies, especially of those in East Asia, where it still remains prevalent to this day.

The tendency to prefer sons over daughters is prevalent in a number of countries. It is especially common in Asian countries, such as China and India, where ethics and traditions consist a significant portion of the society. 


The roots of son-preference lie deep in Chinese culture. Traditionally, the bloodline passes through the male side. Women also "marry out", joining their husband's families and looking after their in-laws, not their own parents.”


 “A boy is widely viewed as an asset; a future breadwinner and caregiver who will look after his parents when they become old. A girl, on the other hand, is seen as a liability, as parents are often pressured to pay dowries when their daughters marry.” 


Chen Xing xiao, living near farmland, faced many struggles because she gave birth to a girl. She got married and had her first child but her in-laws refused to see the new baby. Chen was very furious and couldn’t understand why they couldn't accept their granddaughter. However, in a way, she understood their mindset, remembering that her in-laws were raised with the culture where boys were more beneficial. As Chen saw everyone’s disappointment, she stated, “Looking around, her neighbors had 5 sons and 1 daughter.” Even she was disappointed in herself that she had given birth to a girl. Eventually, she recognized that her daughter was family, and no matter what gender, she should always love the daughter. 

Stories like this occurs in every other household in developing countries. However, our society is developing every day and if wrong actions are taken, we must be responsible for them. At the end of the day no matter who you are, the right to be loved and treated equally should be a basic human right. 

Writers: Siya, Hanna, Jack

Works Cited

Son Preference,

Branigan, Tania. “China's Great Gender Crisis.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 2 Nov. 2011,

Branigan, Tania. “China's Great Gender Crisis.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 2 Nov. 2011,

“Declining Son Preference in the US.” VOX, CEPR Policy Portal,

“Declining Son Preference in the US.” VOX, CEPR Policy Portal,

“How Serious Is Son Preference in China?” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 14 June 2011,

Lin, Tin-Chi. “The Decline of Son Preference and Rise of Gender Indifference in Taiwan Since 1990.” Demographic Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 16 Apr. 2009,,a%20son%20was%20your%20pension.

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