Means of production and male offspring in the Chinese post-socialist transition

Event details

PSC Seminar Series

Date & time

Tuesday 08 February 2022




Fangqi Wen


Maxine McArthur

Previous research has documented that in many dimensions gender equality has deteriorated in former socialist countries. In this study, we incorporate Engels’ private property-monogamy thesis and discussions in the market transition debate to examine the impact of economic privatisation on patrilineal lineage in the Chinese post-socialist transition.

Specifically, we argue that as family names are still largely inherited through male lines, the desire of passing wealth, especially means of production, from one generation to another within the family could lead to parents’ demand for a male heir. Consequently, the control over means of production in the post-socialist period increases Chinese families’ probability of having at least one son.

Using a nationally representative longitudinal dataset and exploiting variation in the timing of control over means of production (i.e., farmlands), we provide empirical evidence in the agricultural population. We show that by having more children and practising sex-selective abortions, farmers who obtained lands due to decollectivisation are more likely to have male offspring.

Our findings explain why the sex ratio at birth has become increasingly skewed in post-socialist China. They also imply an unintended consequence of China’s economic reform — the revival of patrilineal lineage and son preference.   

Fangqi Wen is a lecturer (Assistant Professor) in the Department of Political and Social Change at The Australian National University. Previously, she was a Postdoctoral Prize Research Fellow at Nuffield College, University of Oxford. She received a PhD in Sociology from New York University in 2019. Her research interests centre on demography, inequality and objective as well as perceived social mobility. She also studies methods of causal inference and historical census record linking.

Her work has appeared in academic journals such as Demography, Social Science Research, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. She is the recipient of the Kerckhoff Award from the International Sociological Association Research Committee on Stratification and Mobility (RC28), the National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Award, and the Nan Lin Graduate Student Paper Award from the International Chinese Sociological Association.

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Meeting ID: 878 2062 7268            Password: 033854

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