Gender inequality, family planning, and maternal and child care in a rural Chinese county

Jianghong Li

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95 Citations (Scopus)


This study examines the determinants of prenatal and obstetric care utilization within the context of recent social and economic changes in contemporary rural China. The aim of this study is to test the general hypothesis that gender inequality (women's status and son preference) and the state's family planning policy have a significant influence on maternal and childcare utilization. Both qualitative and quantitative data from a field survey in 1994 in rural Yunnan were used in the study. The findings lend support to this hypothesis. For example, the extent to which the husband shares housework and childcare, as an important marker of rural Chinese women's position within the family, is positively associated with the likelihood that a woman receives prenatal examinations, stops heavy physical work before birth, and gives birth under aseptic conditions. Also, a woman's exposure to the larger world beyond the village increases her chances of giving birth with the assistance of a doctor or health worker. Son preference is an impeding factor for maternal and child health care utilization. Already having a son in the family reduces the chances that the mother will stop heavy physical work before birth for a subsequent pregnancy. Female infants with older sisters are the least likely to receive immunizations. Women with “outside the plan” pregnancies are less likely than those with “approved” pregnancies to receive prenatal examinations, to stop strenuous work before birth, and to deliver under aseptic conditions. Thus, the study provides further evidence that the family planning policy has a negative impact on women and their families, whose fertility and son preferences conflict with the birth control policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)695-708
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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