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Presented By: Institute for Social Research

Hardship and Hard Work: Son Preference Attitudes among Highly Educated Urban Chinese Women

PSC Brown Bag Series

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Hardship and Hard Work: Son Preference Attitudes among Highly Educated Urban Chinese Women
by Yun Zhou
Monday, February 21
12-1:10 pm ET via Zoom

Extensive research on son preference in China has predominantly focused on rural and rural-to-urban migrant populations. Son preference attitudes among other demographic groups have received little attention. Drawing on 70 in-depth interviews with highly educated urban Chinese women, I examine whether son preference attitudes persist among this previously under-explored group—and if yes, why. I discover a lasting preference for sons among women who otherwise support gender egalitarianism. I elucidate two distinct logics—the gendered hardship and hard work—that underpin this seeming paradox: Invoking their own experiences of gender inequality, these women articulate their son preference as a desire to shield their children from gendered hardship. They view raising daughters amidst pervasive gender discrimination as emotionally taxing hard work. I illustrate the nuanced reasoning—beyond the devaluation of girls—that underlies highly educated urban Chinese women’s son preference attitudes. I further demonstrate that despite the nuance, such reasoning ultimately does not disrupt entrenched patriarchal familial expectations that favour boys over girls and holds behavioural implications for second-birth outcomes.

Yun Zhou is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan. Trained as a social demographer, Zhou’s research examines social inequality and state-market-family relations through the lens of gender, marriage, and reproduction. Intersecting the studies of population and politics, Zhou's current project investigates the demographic, political, and gendered consequences of China's recent ending of the one-child policy. Zhou received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Harvard University in 2017. She completed her postdoctoral training (2017-2019) as a Postdoctoral Research Associate of Population Studies at the Population Studies and Training Center, Brown University.

Michigan Population Studies Center (PSC) Brown Bag seminars highlight recent research in population studies and serve as a focal point for building our research community.
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February 21, 2022 (Monday) 12:00pm

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