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Mapping gendered journeys: Women's labour market outcomes, cultural norms, and family dynamics in China

Resource type
Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Author: Yang, Boxi
The One Child Policy, implemented in China from 1979 to 2015, had a profound impact on the country's family structure. The policy resulted in smaller family sizes, as well as a gender imbalance due to the son preferences. Through manipulating family structure, the One Child Policy has long-lasting influences on intergenerational relationships, labour market outcomes, and ultimately shaping China's social and cultural fabric. By exploiting the One Child Policy as an exogenous policy implementation, this thesis intends to trace the life journey of an average woman in China, and unveil how family structure affects her education and labour outcomes, the formation of her gender attitudes, and intergenerational dynamics in her family. Chapter 1, titled The Sacrificing Older Sisters: Evidence from The Relaxation of One-Child Policy in Rural China, looks into the effect of family size on education and labour market outcomes for firstborn female children in rural China. I use as an instrument the variations in which year the One Child Policy was relaxed across provinces (DiD), which allowed rural families with girls as their firstborn to have a second child. The result shows that having a second child in the family reduced years of formal education by 0.9 years on average and the probability of joining the workforce by 4.7 percentage points for first-born females. This negative effect is significantly larger when the second child is a boy. Chapter 2, titled Becoming A Woman: Sibling Structure and Gender Attitudes, is a joint work with Dr. Chris Bidner. This essay analyzes the heterogeneous effects of sibling structure on individual gender attitudes. Exploiting the variation in the tightness of the One Child Policy across regions in China, as well as twin births, we show that compared to single children, women growing up with siblings hold more traditional gender attitudes, while men exhibit no significant differences. Further investigation indicates that the sibling effects on gender attitude act through the channel of the gender composition of the siblings. Women with brothers adopt more traditional gender role attitudes compared to those with sisters only, while the gender of siblings does not have a significant effect on men's attitudes. Our findings suggest that the existence of brothers exposes girls to the reinforcement of traditional gender role orientations, such as the allocation of household tasks and parental involvement, which in turn socializes women with more traditional gender norms. Chapter 3, titled The Gendered Lens of Intergenerational Transfers: Children, Grandparental Support and Parental Labour Market Outcomes in China, investigates the heterogeneous effects of preschool-aged children on intergenerational time and money transfers and the labour market outcomes of the parents. Using fixed effects models with panel data, as well as a system GMM approach, I find that the probability of receiving care from the grandparents is significantly higher for a woman when she gives birth to sons compared to daughters, whereas the grandparents' care for the father does not depend on the gender of his children. Similar results are found when examining the financial help received from grandparents. These intergenerational dynamics create two offsetting effects on mothers' labour force participation. On the one hand, the child-rearing and housework help from grandparents leaves mothers more time for work. On the other hand, the income effect from the grandparents' financial assistance nudges women to exit the labour market. These effects of intergenerational transfers exhibit larger magnitudes for women with sons.
81 pages.
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Thesis advisor: Bidner, Chris
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