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Home > Special Topics > Social Trends Last Updated: 15:18 03/09/2007
Social Trends #48: July 14, 2003

Gender Equality in Japanese Education: Part Five -
Gender Bias in the Parental Allocation of Financial Resources for Education

J. Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM)

A full list of articles in this series can be found here.


Earlier installments in this series have illustrated how the decline in the number of young people in the population is helping to create a better gender-balance in higher education. Another aspect of this ongoing process is a gradual shift in the underlying dynamics of parental funding decisions about education. This is occurring due to the declining number of children per family, which is potentially increasing the amount of financial resource available to each individual child. As a result, the parental decision making process is becoming more gender-neutral and this in turn is challenging entrenched concepts about gender roles.

As the average number of children per family continues to drop, the family comprising of just one or two children has relatively more financial resources to invest in education than previous cohorts. This is the basic driving force behind the shift in parental attitudes. The decline in family size can clearly be seen in the average number of babies born to a woman in her lifetime, which is called the fertility rate. In 1950 the fertility rate stood at 3.65 children but by 2002 this had dropped to 1.32. The fall in the average number of children per family has been especially advantageous for girls.


Fertility Rate 1950-2002
YearTotal Fertility Rate
19503.65
19552.37
19602.00
19652.14
19702.13
19751.91
19801.75
19851.76
19901.54
19921.50
19931.46
19941.50
19951.42
19961.43
19971.39
19981.38
19991.34
20001.36
20011.33
20021.32
Source: Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, 2003

During the first four decades of the postwar period, there was a strong gender bias amongst parents in the allocation of financial resources for education. On the whole, parents tended to invest more monetary resources in their sons than their daughters. There were a number of social and economic factors behind this trend.

One element was simply the large size of the typical family. Three or four children per family meant that cost factors were too prohibitive for the average household to send all their offspring to university. Thus resources had to be allocated and this process was influenced by gender-based concepts about higher education (see Part Four). Basically, a woman's primary roles were seen as that of a wife and mother and consequently her education was meant to reflect this. If household budgets permitted, girls would often be sent to two-year junior colleges which were half the cost of four-year universities. In large families, parents could usually not even afford to send all their male offspring to university.

Another important factor influencing resource allocation was the perceived returns from parental invest in higher education. A majority of parents believed that investing in their male offspring gave them the greatest economic return. The logic behind this stance was that childbirth and childrearing interrupted a woman's earning capacity, which was already lower than her male counterparts' due to a gender-biased employment structure. Thus, from the perspective of the average parent, it made little economic sense to invest in female higher education.

Over the last decade, the growing trend in one or two-children families has completely altered the dynamics of parental investment trends in education. This is especially true for one-child families, in which gender-bias based on the allocation of financial resources is greatly diminished, if not entirely eliminated. As the fertility rates show, the trend for having just one child per family is increasing and this will further erode gender bias in educational investment.


Related GLOCOM Articles

Gender Equality in Japanese Education Part One: Male and Female Participation Rates in Higher Education
Social Trends: Series #42, GLOCOM Platform, 17 June 2003


Gender Equality in Japanese Education Part Two: The Development of the Two-year Women's Junior College System
Social Trends: Series #43, GLOCOM Platform, 17 June 2003


Gender Equality in Japanese Education Part Three: How Gender Imbalances in Education Impede Women in the Workplace
Social Trends: Series #45, GLOCOM Platform, 25 June 2003


Gender Equality in Japanese Education Part Four: The Changing Nature of the University-Prospective Student Relationship
Social Trends: Series #47, GLOCOM Platform, 7 July 2003


Changing Attitudes towards Gender Roles in Japan: 2002 Snapshot
Social Trends: Series #8, GLOCOM Platform, 24 September 2002


Youth Trends in Japan: Part Two "Parasite Singles" in Europe and Japan
J. Sean Curtin & Michael Kavanagh, Social Trends: Series #39, GLOCOM Platform, 26 May 2003


Youth Trends in Japan: Part One "Parasite Singles" in the International Context
Social Trends: Series #38, GLOCOM Platform, 26 May 2003


Family Trends in 2003 Part Two: Population Data Shows Declining Birthrates, Fewer Marriages and More Divorces
Social Trends: Series #41, GLOCOM Platform, 11 June 2003


Family Trends in 2003: Declining Birthrates, Fewer Marriages, More Divorces
Social Trends: Series #26, GLOCOM Platform, 6 February 2003


The Declining Birthrate in Japan: Part Three Italy-Japan Comparisons
J. Sean Curtin, Richard J. Samuels and William T. Stonehill, Social Trends: Series #19, GLOCOM Platform, 11 December 2002


Inequality in Japanese Marriage and Divorce Laws in 2002
Social Trends: Series #12, GLOCOM Platform, 21 October 2002


Japanese Tax and Pension Reform Proposals 2002: Abolition of the Spouse Special Tax Deduction
Social Trends: Series #7, GLOCOM Platform, 17 September 2002


Living Longer, Divorcing Later: The Japanese Silver Divorce Phenomenon
Debates, GLOCOM Platform, 5 August 2002

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