Persistent inequalities pose a significant threat to the achievement of development goals and eradication of poverty in the South Asia region. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing disparities and has opened new divides. The Chief Economist Office of the South Asia region, in cooperation with global practices and the Development Research Group, is conducting a research program, Social Divides and Norms: Disparities across Gender, Opportunity, and Location in South Asia, to deepen our understanding of long running inequalities.
A key feature of inequality and poverty in the region are gender inequalities across a variety of dimensions of wellbeing. A particularly worrying aspect of gender inequality in South Asia is parental preference for sons that manifests as discrimination against girls both in the womb and after birth. But South Asia is not alone in this. East Asian economies like China and Vietnam also display this son bias. This event, Son Preference: Drivers, Evidence Gaps, and Policies, is part of the Social Divides research program and focuses on this specific aspect of gender inequality: son preference.
Four experts offer their views on what we know about son preference. The discussion focuses on:
- Measurement of son preference: how do we isolate son preference from other factors that can drive gender gaps in outcomes?
- Drivers of son preference: is it an economic phenomenon linked to the fact that daughters provide lower economic returns than sons, and thus make the cost of investing in girls higher than that of investing in boys? Or is it due to norms, cultural practices, and rituals which support patriarchy? Or both?
- What are the policy impacts (effectiveness, other negative or positive effects) of son preference?
- What are some examples or ideas of policies, besides those already tested, to change son preference?