UA School of Sociology Brown Bag Series Presents: Eunsil Oh

Talk Title: “Structural and Cultural Foundations of Declining Son Preference: Evidence from South Korea."

Abstract: Son preference has been at the center of understanding how families operate, particularly in patriarchal societies. The high sex ratios at birth are particularly stark throughout Asia, as well as parts of Eastern Europe and Africa. One country, South Korea, has recently reduced its sex ratio at birth from extremely skewed levels to biologically normal levels. It is puzzling, however, that son preference has dramatically declined within the context of high levels of gender inequality. Aiming to understand these puzzling, aggregated trends, I use qualitative methods and explore how young adults in Korea shape their aspirations about having children and arrive at their gender preference or indifference. There are two main findings that the analysis reveals. First, sons are increasingly perceived as an economic burden and such perception is rooted in gendered and class-based ideas about marriage, in particular, the idea that men should bring to a marriage a house. Second, there is an emergence of daughter preference that is shared particularly by those who have low fertility intentions. Such construction of desire, however, is rooted in the traditional understanding of daughterhood and the expectations for their unpaid labor for the family. In the end, foundations of declining son preference includes shifting ideas about whether families operate as a reciprocal relationship and persisting gender ideology that is rooted in sacrificing and altruistic daughterhood.

The Sociology Brownbag will be held online via Zoom at the link below from 12:00-1:15PM:


Zoom link:


Zoom password: aspiration​​​​​​​


Noon to 1:20 p.m. Feb. 26, 2021