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Soc Biol. 1995 Spring-Summer;42(1-2):50-64.

Effects of gender, birth order, and other correlates on childhood mortality in China.

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East-West Center Program on Population, Honolulu, Hawaii 96848, USA.


Using data from the 1988 Two-Per-Thousand Survey of Fertility and Birth Control, this paper examines the effects of gender, birth order, and other correlates of childhood mortality in China. Controlling for family-level factors, childhood mortality is found to be associated with the child's gender and birth order. Among firstborn children the difference between male and female childhood mortality is not statistically significant, but among others, female children between ages 1 and 5 experience higher mortality than male children. Childhood mortality is slightly higher for children who have older brothers only than for those who have older sisters only, and it is highest for those who have both older brothers and sisters. Other factors affecting childhood mortality in China include mortality of older siblings, birth interval, urban/rural residence, mother's level of education, and mother's occupation. All interactive effects between gender and family-level characteristics are found to be statistically insignificant.


Life table analysis of birth intervals and child survival in China reveals that discrimination against females is not apparent for first born children. Discrimination against females after the first child is generally uniform among different socioeconomic groups. Attitude change and changes in societal norms are expected to have the greatest impact on elimination of gender discrimination in China. Childbearing in China follows a pattern of a strong desire for at least one son and a small family. After the birth of a female child, the probability of having a short birth interval and having a next birth is much higher. The leading causes of death among children aged under 15 years are considered preventable and a result of the quality of parental care, such as shortened breast feeding periods among female infants. Female discrimination appears to start with second daughters. Both male and female first children are valued. Tests of covariance and the observed gender difference in child mortality departing from the usual male/female ratio confirm this finding. Mortality is lowest among children who have older sisters. Proportional hazard models reveal that all of the family level factors (urban residence, mother's education, and mother's occupation) are statistically significant in explaining differential childhood mortality. Differences in childhood mortality by gender are greater for higher birth order children. The sex ratio of mortality varies by birth order and age of children. Data were obtained from China's 1988 Two-Per-Thousand Survey of Fertility and Birth Control among almost 500,000 ever married women aged 15-57 years.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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