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No Country for Young Girls: Market reforms, gender roles, and pre-natal sex selection in post-Soviet Ukraine

Amartya Sen's seminal "100 Million Missing Women" brought to light the rapid increase of sex-selective infanticide in India. Since then, interest in the related problem of pre-natal sex-selection has proliferated. Most analyses of the phenomenon, however, have been restricted to developing countries and been carried out at the national or large sub-national region. Pre-natal sex selection is understood as a product of the pull to reduce family size caused by a "demographic transition" combined with the swift spread of modern scanning technology within a still traditional culture or kinship structure that prioritizes male children. This article opens up the analysis of sex-selective abortion geographically, methodologically and theoretically. Using household surveys, we demonstrate high levels of sex-selection in Ukraine, a country without any tradition of son preference. Detailed analysis of household data suggests that pre-natal sex selection can be understood in the altruistic acts of mothers seeking to protect their unborn daughters from the hardships associated with being a woman under postcommunist capitalism. Thus, theoretically, we move away from a reliance on demographic, cultural and technological explanations towards a political economy analysis.

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